As I’ve often said, a real problem with our current orthopedic care system is it’s laser like focus on what hurts and it’s general ignorance of how it got that way. I’ve blogged in the past on how what happens at the ankle can impact the knee, how loss of hip range of motion in throwing athletes can tear up the shoulder, and how weak butt muscles can cause knee cap problems. Why is it important to understand how the parts fit together?
Take for example this new research study just published. They recruited 20 patients who had severe knee arthritis and were awaiting joint replacement. They placed sophisticated force measuring devices at both hips and knees and had the patients walk. Patients with one sided knee arthritis had more forces on the opposite knee and opposite hip than patients without knee arthritis. In addition, they had more “co-contraction” on both sides in the muscles of the knee and hip. What does this mean? Normal muscles fire on one side of a joint and let go on the other side. So for example, when your quadriceps muscle fires, your hamstrings muscle lets go. Co-contraction means that they both kind of fire at the same time. What was the conclusion of the study? “The other major weight-bearing joints are at risk from abnormal biomechanics in patients with unilateral OA of the knee.” This means that the authors believed that other joints could get arthritis due to the excessive forces being generated by the abnormal movements of the arthritic knee.
The upshot? If you have a bad knee, get it fixed! In addition, if you want to know more about how all the parts of the musculoskeletal system fit together, take a look at our practice’s new e-book, Orthopedics 2.0.