Barking Up the Wrong Knee
by Eric Winder, DC
The amazing tissue that we call fascia makes a universal and interconnected web throughout the entire human body. It covers, connects and supports every tissue and organ. Due to the complex, body-wide network that fascia creates, restrictions in this tissue can cause surprising patterns of pain to other parts of the body.
Most experienced practitioners of fascia therapies learn, either through training or the school of hard knocks, that to successfully treat someone’s pain, they have to treat the body as a whole. The renowned neurosurgeon Karel Lewit was known for saying, “He who treats the site of pain is lost.” Lewit did extensive research on manual therapy, and what he meant by this quote is that pain in one part of the body almost always is caused in part by restrictions found somewhere else in the body.
In other words, if your knee hurts, there’s a firm chance that you’ll need to treat more than just your knee in order to find relief. Let’s use a patient whom I will name Bob as an example: Bob’s right knee had been causing pain and limiting his activities for more than a year. Massage therapy and stretching focused around the painful area did not help. Physical therapy designed to strengthen muscular support for the right knee did not help either. When an MRI showed a slight tear of his knee cartilage, he had arthroscopic surgery to repair the tear. However, in the weeks and months after the surgery, he still felt the same pain.
Finally, Bob’s neighbor suggested that he visit our office for an evaluation. After a thorough history and examination, I informed Bob that his most significant issues included restrictions in his right foot, his lower back, and especially his left knee. He was surprised—and even slightly worried—that I didn’t mention his painful right knee as an area that we would focus on with treatment.
I explained to Bob that sometimes fascia restriction causes pain at the restriction area. However, more often fascia creates pain indirectly in ways that make it show up somewhere else in the body. Restricted fascia will often trigger muscle weakness or joint instability. In the body’s attempt to compensate, the stress can travel to another area of the body and aggravate a muscle or joint that is nowhere near the initial restriction.
An example that illustrates this would be a patient who wears an orthopedic boot to immobilize their ankle after foot surgery. While the boot might protect the foot, so it can heal, the limitation of motion creates a limp that often causes hip or lower back pain on the opposite side of the body. A restriction in fascia can act similarly, causing a pain in a different area of the body. Just like removing the orthopedic boot can resolve the hip and lower back pain, removing a restriction in fascia through treatment can relieve pain elsewhere in the body.
Now coming back around to Bob, when I treated the restrictions around Bob’s left knee, it improved the muscular balance of his left hip and thigh which relieved the misalignment of his pelvis. This, in turn, removed a stressful twisting pressure at his right knee which relieved the pain. Restrictions in his right foot and lower back were also contributing, and when treated, they helped to further relieve his right knee pain. He was thrilled to be able to resume activities that he had been avoiding for the past year.
Bob then referred a friend to our office who was seeking help with her lower back pain. This friend told me that she was impressed with Bob’s improvement, but that she thought it was kind of crazy that I helped his right knee by treating his left knee. I just smiled, and over the next few weeks, we successfully treated her lower back pain by releasing fascia restrictions in her neck and ribcage. Another fascia web mystery—solved.
You are invited to attend an evening program on January 2, 2020, where you can learn in-depth about fascia, why it is important and how the successful treatment of fascia can relieve pain. Dr. Eric Winder will discuss case examples, provide a treatment demonstration and hold a Q&A session following the presentation. Attendees are invited to arrive at 6:50 p.m. for refreshments, and the program itself will take place from 7–8 p.m. This free event is located at 3131 S Tamiami Trail, #102, Sarasota. To RSVP, call 941-957-8390. Dr. Eric Winder has 22 years in practice, and focuses on relieving pain and restoring alignment and motion through fascia release therapies without forceful manipulation. For more information, visit GentleBay.com.