Why Does One Knee Hurt But Not the Other?

All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability.

The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.-Bruce Lee


Since the 1980s, knee injury among youths and adults has gradually increased due to an increase in sports participation, according to Dr. James York of Chesapeake Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center. About 75 percent of the knee injury, usually at the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is non-contact, meaning that the injury is caused by internal factors, such as a twist, jerk or pull of the knee joint. A contact injury is where you fall on the ground on your knee or someone smacks your knee with a crowbar.

Good anti-zombie weapon.

Sometimes non-athletes suffer from knee pain from doing everyday activities, often on one knee but not both. Many people have asked me that question: “Why does one knee hurt but not the other?”

Most doctors would say that you’re getting old or you exercise too much. But that does not answer why does the opposite knee does not hurt. It worked just as hard as the painful knee, yet it has no pain or restrictions. As my former mentor Anthony Carey of Function First in San Diego once wrote, “Has it missed a few birthdays?”

Unfortunately, many orthopedic physicians and physical therapists do not look beyond the knee joint. If the problem is here, they’ll look at only the site and nowhere else. This is like a detective looking for a burglar only in the building where the crime was committed and not conducting a search in the city block or beyond the city.

Most physical therapists would prescribe leg and knee-related exercises during rehabilitation without considering looking at the ankle or hip joint. However, strengthening the knee and local muscles alone is not enough to prevent the injury from re-occurring again. Although some isolation exercises are necessary for certain phases of the treatment, they should not be the only means to solve the problem.

Typical cookie-cutter workout. It may help make your knee stronger, but it won't solve the real problem.

Physical therapist Gray Cook, who is a well-known and respected speaker and co-founder of Functional Movement Systems, described the concepts of stability and mobility in his book “Athletic Body in Balance.” Stability is the ability to control movement and maintain proper body alignment when you move, while mobility describes the range of motion of joints, muscles and fasciae together. If either factor is poor, then you increase your risk of injury.

According to Cook, if your ankle and/or hip joint lack adequate mobility, then something else has to move and compensate. That compensation is your knee. Your knee is a hinge joint that moves in one direction which is flexing and extending your leg. Although it can rotate slightly, this movement is only a buffer to prevent excessive movement in the transverse plane. So, if your ankles or hips are stiff and can’t move…pop goes the knee!

“Treating knee pain only at the knee without finding the cause of pain is like mopping a wet floor without fixing the leaky faucet.” -Gray Cook

The hurdle step is a functional test to see the relationship between the left and right sides of your body. (photo from http://www.graycook.com)

If you ever go visit your doctor or physical therapist for knee pain from a non-contact injury, ask him or her these questions?

1. “Why does one knee hurt but not the other?”

2. “Does my hip and ankles have anything to do with it?”

3. “Are you going to check my posture or my entire body?”

If you do not get a satisfying answer, I suggest you get a second opinion. Maybe even a third or fourth.

Remember: Never settle for status quo. Be curious like a four-year-old.

Call today at 858.722.5216 to reduce your risk of getting injury and avoid unnecessary surgery.

Bruce Lee quotes

I Like this quote I dislike this quote 

“When there is freedom from mechanical conditioning, there is simplicity. The classical man is just a bundle of routine, ideas and tradition. If you follow the classical pattern, you are understanding the routine, the tradition, the shadow – you are not understanding yourself.”


Bruce Lee quotes (American Actor and martial arts expert. Born in San Francisco, California, USA 19401973)

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See also

Bruce Lee said: “When there is freedom from mechanical conditioning, there is simplicity….” and:

I Like this quote I dislike this quoteAll fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.

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