The relationship between knee and back pain

If you have pain in your knee, you might think it makes sense to go to the doctor to have your knee checked. However, one of the most common misconceptions is that knee pain is caused by your knee. In truth, it is quite common that knee pain is really caused by something else that is happening in your back – more often than not, a pinched nerve in your lower back. So if you have knee pain you should also get your back checked out to see if that is the cause of the problem.

It sounds crazy right? You have a sore knee so you ask your local Northern Beaches chiropractor to take a look at your back. But it does make sense. There is no point trying to fix knee pain if the problem comes from a different area in your body. All that will happen is you will spend weeks working on your knee but not getting any relief as the original issue still exists.

Do you remember the old song Dem Bones that you used to sing as a child? ‘The hip bone’s connected to the back bone, the back bone’s connected to the neck bone.’ Well there’s a lot of truth in that song. The simple fact is, everything in your body is connected in all different ways and so it is entirely possible that a pain you have in one part of your body is actually caused by another area. For example, tension in your upper back or neck will often result in a headache.

The same happens with your back and legs. The nerves in the lower back go down to your legs, so when you have a pinched nerve it will often be felt in the legs. In fact, sometimes you won’t even feel the pinched nerve in your back at all, or it may only be a small pain compared to your knee.

It isn’t only pinched nerves that will result in knee pain. There are actually several reasons why it might be a good idea to take a look at your back if you are experiencing knee pain. They are:


There are two large muscles in your back called the psoas muscles. When they are pulling tight, they will pull forward and down and create tension in your pelvis. When this happens, the pressure moves to your knees to compensate for what your back and pelvis are doing and therefore creates pain in your knees.

This happens all over your body. When there is pain or discomfort, your body will automatically shift or adjust the way you walk, sit, stand or run in order to take the pressure off the part that is hurting. In doing this, pressure goes onto the other areas that are trying to pick up the slack and it can cause harm to them as well. Often, this happens without you even noticing until you have pain in several areas in your body and you can’t even remember which pain came first!

Weak core

The muscles in the centre of your body such as the glutes, abdominal muscles, and the back and hip muscles are referred to as the ‘core’. These muscles are responsible for supporting the bulk of your weight as well as helping maintain good posture. If the core muscles are weak, the posture will be affected and there will be stress placed on your knees. In a reverse scenario, having good strength and flexibility in your knees and the surrounding muscles will also take stress off the back.


Any time you need to lift a heavy item you should bend at the knees to pick it up. Many people forget this, and bend at the waist instead, placing a huge amount of pressure on the back. So many injuries can result from improper picking up technique, including a slipped disc in the back or an irritation on the sciatic nerve which travels from your lower back down the length of the leg. You may end up with back pain and also knee pain all thank to incorrect lifting.

If you have either knee pain or back pain or perhaps a bit of both, you should speak to your chiropractor. They will be able to work on relieving pain or tension and make daily life easier for you as the pain begins to go away. They will also be able to assess your body and try to work out where the cause of the pain is. As you now know, pain in one area of your body may very well be caused from another area and they should be able to work this out so they can concentrate their efforts in the right place.

While you are there, you should also learn some long-term self-care plans such as the best techniques for picking up objects, the best and most correct way to stand up and sit down so that you don’t put too much stress on the knees or your back.

August 31, 2016
Georgina Smith