If you’re living with a knee condition, you may wonder if a chiropractor can help treat your knee pain. The answer is, it depends.
Knee pain is a common concern that frequently occurs due to aging, injury, or overuse. Mild, acute knee pain usually subsides within a few days using home treatments. However, chronic and severe knee pain requires treatment to ease discomfort and prevent it from worsening.
One treatment option for knee pain may be chiropractic care, which uses holistic methods to treat your whole body and improve overall well-being. A chiropractor may be able to treat some knee pain and address underlying issues.
However, this method may not be for everyone. Chiropractic treatment is ideal if you prefer a natural healing approach, and if your knee pain is not caused by an injury or condition that requires surgical intervention.
In some cases, chiropractic care may be enough to help ease knee pain. In other cases, you may use it alongside conventional medical treatments.
Read on to find out more about common causes of knee pain, how chiropractic care can help, and what to expect during sessions. Plus, you can learn about the risks and considerations of treatment.
Chiropractic care is a type of complementary medicine that focuses on your body’s natural healing ability. It is based on the belief that aligning the body enhances the functioning of the nervous system and overall well-being.
Chiropractors use soft tissue and manual therapy techniques to realign your spine and joints. Treatment may help with movement, ease discomfort, and improve function. Chiropractic care may also increase your range of motion and ease tension, helping you feel more relaxed and less stressed.
Chiropractors can treat several painful knee conditions and concerns, especially those that get in the way of mobility.
Knee conditions that chiropractors treat include:
- Osteoarthritis (OA): OA occurs when the articular cartilage of the knee breaks down due to age or an injury. The bones then create friction that leads to pain, stiffness, and limited mobility.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): Symptoms of this inflammatory autoimmune condition include swelling and stiffness. Over time, RA can cause bone, joint, and cartilage damage.
- Meniscal injury: Meniscal tears occur due to aging, arthritis, and forcefully twisting or rotating your knee.
- Patellar tendonitis: Patellar tendonitis is a repetitive injury that causes inflammation and weakness in the patellar tendon, which connects your kneecap to your shinbone. Often, this condition occurs in athletes.
Chiropractors may also treat other causes of knee pain. However, for more severe knee injuries and chronic conditions, you’ll also want to consult a doctor.
Chiropractic treatment may also be suitable for postsurgery rehabilitation as well as overuse and athletic injuries, including sprains and strains.
Having too much body weight is a common cause of knee pain. Being overweight puts extra pressure on your spine, hips, and knees, which results in inflammation.
Additional causes of knee pain include:
- iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS)
- anterior knee pain syndrome
- chondromalacia patella
- knee joint misalignment
- kneecap dislocation
- psoriatic arthritis (PsA)
- Osgood-Schlatter disease
- patella tendinopathy
- patellofemoral syndrome
- anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears
- Baker’s cyst
- referred pain
- knee valgus (knock-knees)
- knee bursitis
Chiropractic treatment for knee pain will depend on the cause, symptoms, and contributing factors, which may include excess weight, poor posture, and workplace ergonomics.
To create a treatment plan, your chiropractor will determine if your knee pain is due to a primary cause or a compensatory cause. A compensatory cause is when your knee’s alignment or function is compromised in order to make up for another issue, such as tightness in another area of your body.
The chiropractor will also consider your accompanying symptoms, including inflammation, stiffness, and weakness.
Treatment will usually include other areas of your body, including the neck, spine, and hips. Tightness and misalignments in these areas can contribute to knee pain. Plus, you may have developed poor posture and movement patterns in order to reduce pressure on your knee.
Common chiropractic treatments for knee pain include:
- Manual manipulation: This hands-on technique involves aligning your spine and joints to reduce stress, improve posture, and boost mobility.
- Traction: This technique involves stretching the knee to reduce inflammation and boost mobility.
- Ultrasound: The massaging effect of sound waves can alleviate pain, inflammation, and stiffness.
- Electrotherapy: A stimulation device, such as a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit, delivers tiny electric pulses to reduce swelling, ease tension, and boost blood flow.
- Cold laser: This treatment helps with inflammation and speeds healing.
- Infrared sauna: Infrared heat can help reduce pain, ease stiffness, and boost blood flow.
- Home exercise program: Your customized plan will include rehabilitation exercises and stretches to strengthen your knee and its supporting muscles.
Chiropractors may also recommend:
- physical therapy
- massage therapy
- orthotics and other supports
- hot and cold therapy
- kinesiology tape
- herbs and supplements
- an anti-inflammatory diet
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- breathing and relaxation techniques
- mindfulness meditation
- tai chi
During your initial chiropractic session for knee pain, your chiropractor will ask about your personal and family medical history, lifestyle, and occupation.
Your chiropractor will ask how and when your pain began and which activities make it feel better or worse. Be ready to explain the type, location, and frequency of pain.
They will perform a physical examination to check your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing patterns. If necessary, they will take an X-ray.
Usually, you will stand, sit, or lie down on the table during treatments and can stay fully clothed. Wear comfortable clothing that allows you to move freely. Thin, loose fabric is preferable to stiff, thick, and bulky fabric. You can wear tight clothes if they are stretchy.
Avoid wearing jewelry and accessories like belts, which can get in the way during adjustments.
To determine the cause of your knee pain and create an appropriate treatment plan, your chiropractor may apply light pressure to tender areas. They may feel the joint as you move and listen for sounds, including grinding or clicking.
Your chiropractor will let you know how many treatments they recommend. Typically, sessions are more frequent during the initial weeks.
A chiropractor does not prescribe medications or perform surgery. If they are unable to treat your condition, they will refer you to a suitable healthcare professional.
Chiropractic care for knee pain is generally safe and poses few risks. However, it is not suitable for everyone. If you have concerns, share them with your chiropractor or a healthcare professional to decide what is best.
Since it’s beneficial to relax during treatments, choose a chiropractor with whom you feel comfortable.
You may experience mild discomfort during your treatment, but it should not be painful. If you feel intense pain, speak up immediately. After treatment, it’s typical to have soreness, headaches, and fatigue.
If you have an inflammatory condition, it is not advisable to have an adjustment during a flare that affects your spine and joints. However, a chiropractor can perform adjunctive therapies to treat the surrounding tissues and other areas of concern.
Chiropractic care may not be suitable if you have any of the following:
- broken bones
- ruptured ligaments
- bone cancer
- spinal cord disorders
- bone marrow diseases
- a high risk of stroke
Chiropractic care is a natural, holistic treatment that can help with musculoskeletal concerns, including knee pain from a variety of causes. The goal of treatment is to improve mobility and function so you can move with ease.
You’ll also learn to implement healthy lifestyle changes, including stress reduction techniques, physical activity, and a healthy diet.