The top 6 causes of knee and ankle pain

Knee pain and ankle pain are both common ailments. Often, they can occur simultaneously, leading to even more pain and discomfort. In fact, if you are dealing with ankle pain, you’re more likely to develop knee pain as well. When your body is in pain, it tries to compensate by relieving pressure on the affected area. However, this puts more strain on nearby joints and muscles, making it more likely you’ll develop further injuries.

Knee and ankle pain have many causes, but no matter the reason behind your pain, it can be treated. You just have to know where to begin.

What causes knee and ankle pain?

Knee pain has many causes, as does ankle pain. But what makes them occur simultaneously? Here are six reasons you might be dealing with both knee and ankle pain at the same time:

  • Joint damage — If you have joint damage in both your knees and ankles, it can cause simultaneous knee and ankle pain. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis is a common cause of joint issues, either due to overuse, age or an autoimmune disease. While there’s no cure for arthritis, physical therapy can have both short- and long-term benefits.
  • Tendinitis — Your knees and ankles are connected through a vast and complex network of tendons. If one of those tendons gets strained, it can cause a lot of knee and ankle pain. If your tendons get inflamed, it can cause tendinitis, which negatively impacts your knees and ankles, increasing pain and reducing mobility.
  • Bone fracture — The tibia bone connects your knee and ankle. If that bone gets fractured or broken, it can cause severe pain that radiates from the knee to the ankle. Once the bone itself heals, the area around it is still weak from disuse. This can cause pain even after the fractured bone itself is no longer causing problems. 
  • Muscle imbalance or weakness — Your muscles provide an important framework that helps your body balance itself and move properly. If the muscles that support your knee and ankle are weak or imbalanced, you may feel discomfort or instability when you move. This instability can also put more strain on the surrounding muscles, forcing you to compensate. And that compensation often leads to more strain and eventual pain.
  • Shin splints — If you are heavily involved in sports that require a lot of running, you may be putting extra stress on your tibia. This can cause shin splints, a condition that often causes pain from the knee down to the ankle. Overuse will only make this condition worse.
  • Pinched nerve — Nerves communicate pain signals to the rest of the body. If a nerve gets pinched or irritated, it may send incorrect pain signals that cause discomfort. A pinched sciatica nerve can cause radiating pain from your lower back all the way down to your foot.

Knee and ankle pain can occur for many reasons. No matter how or why you feel discomfort in your ankles and knees, our licensed physical therapists are here to help.

How to treat knee and ankle pain

Depending on the source of your knee and ankle pain, different physical therapy treatments may work better for you. Here are a few of the top manual therapy techniques that our licensed physical therapists use to treat knee and ankle pain:

  • Joint mobilization — Joint mobilization uses movement to loosen up restricted joints. Your physical therapist will engage in this manual therapy technique with rhythmic, repetitive motions to try to steadily improve mobility in the joint. The joint is moved in a way that you would not be able to do on your own.
  • Soft tissue mobilization — This manual therapy technique is centered around soft tissue including muscles, tendons and ligaments. Your physical therapist will apply friction and pressure with their hands to the soft tissue surrounding your injury. Steady kneading motions can help alleviate tension, improve flexibility and provide pain relief to the affected area.
  • High velocity, low amplitude thrusting — The goal of this manual therapy technique is to allow the joints to open and close more effectively to restore motion. It employs a rapid use of force over a short period of time to increase range of motion. However, the joint is not moved past its anatomical limit.
  • Muscle energy techniques — Your physical therapist may use muscle energy techniques to lengthen shortened muscles and mobilize restricted joints. You may be asked to contract a joint or muscle, and your physical therapist will apply gentle force in the opposite direction. 

Some or all of these techniques may be part of your treatment plan. Your physical therapist will evaluate your condition and decide what manual therapy techniques can help you the most.

Next steps to treat knee and ankle pain

If you’re dealing with knee and ankle pain, you don’t have to go it alone. Our licensed physical therapists are here to help. With the right treatment plan, you can regain your mobility. Call us or request an appointment today to discuss how physical therapy can help you live a life with less pain.