Knee Injuries Affecting the Back


In 2010 the Global Burden of Disease revealed that low back pain was the single leading cause of disability worldwide. There are several factors that can cause back pain including:

  • Sports injuries
  • Car accidents
  • Arthritis
  • Poor body mechanics
  • Obesity
  • General lower body weakness

X-ray Image of a runner

A few of these examples are specific to injuries related directly to the back, however some of the others are in reference to injuries of different body parts that can affect the back.

Can a Bad Knee Cause Back Pain?

The kinetic chain theory, or link theory, is studied by many researchers and movement specialists throughout the country. We can use this theory to try to explain how an injury to one part of the body can lead to injury or dysfunction in another part of the body unrelated to the initial injury.

In this article’s example, impairments in knee strength, stability, or flexibility can predispose the back to injury due to the chain reaction of forces traveling through the feet, to the ankles, up to the knees, through the hips and into the spine when walking, running, jumping, or even standing. 

An easy way to picture this is imagining how you walk when you have pain in the knee. 

This walking pattern is most likely not your normal walking pattern, which means the other joints in your body are not used to this abnormal movement which causes them to compensate their movements, changing the demands placed on the muscles and soft tissue structures around that joint. 

The joints in our lower limb work together to transfer forces between the limb segments during motion. If there is a hitch in any of these mechanisms it not only affects the lower limb but it also affects the joints above and below it. 

Based on what we know about the kinetic chain theory, abnormalities in the lower limb may cause additional forces to be transmitted up the chain to the spine. A few examples of abnormalities in the knee that can affect the spine include:

  • Muscle imbalance                                                            
  • Ligamentous instability
  • Flexibility deficits
  • Neuromuscular changes
  • Altered walking/running/jumping 

Knee Injuries Affecting the Back- Treatment 

Hopefully, this answers your questions about if a knee problem(s) causes back pain.

If you have knee or back pain and would like to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors you may call JOI-2000 or click BOOK APPOINTMENT below.

By: Ehren Allen, PT, Certified Manual Therapist

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