How Do Knee and Ankle Misalignment Affect the Whole Body?
The short answer to that question is “IN A MAJOR WAY.”
Consider the body as a highly interconnected chain. Movement in one part affects movement in the next part and all of the subsequent parts thereafter.
Proper biomechanics can’t exist without lower body alignment. So yes. Knee and ankle misalignment is a big deal! And runners, cyclists, and other athletes performing without proper technique are prone to injury because of it.
The Complicated Foot
Did you know that your foot (down there at the bottom of your leg) is a complicated system? You wouldn’t know it to look at it, but it’s made up of 28 bones and 33 joints. There are 112 ligaments. And the whole thing is controlled by 13 extrinsic and 21 intrinsic muscles.
All of these muscles, ligaments, and joints are responsible for supporting your body’s weight, managing shock absorption, transferring ground reaction forces, and providing balance. These are no small feats. (See what we did there?)
It’s divided into three distinct sections – forefoot, mid foot, and rear foot. It is the rear foot – where the ankle and heel live – that we’re going to dissect.
Your Ankle Misaligned
It is the ankle that makes movement possible. Think about it. It enables your foot to flex, extend, and rotate. And it does this all while carrying your weight. Now, while all of us experience some level of misalignment in at least one part of the body, if your ankles become even moderately misaligned, that heavy weight they support can get transferred up the legs or down into the feet.
Unless there is a very noticeable physical misalignment, it can be difficult to know whether your ankles have shifted out of alignment. The pain doesn’t always present in the area of the ankle. During movement, your body will attempt to compensate by putting more strain on the back, hips, or knees. (More on that later.) In these cases, you may be inclined to write it off to the usual aches and pains that come with working out.
Of course, there are times when you’ll notice stiffness or pain in the ankles or Achilles tendon. And plantar fasciitis, pain at the bottom of the heel as a result of disruption of soft tissue, is a warning sign for ankle misalignment.
All of these indicators are very good reason to get those ankles checked. You may need to engage in physical therapy to learn the proper moves to bring them back into alignment and keep them there.
So How Does the Knee Play In Here?
As we mentioned above, sometimes ankle misalignment can show up as knee pain. Particularly if ankle misalignment is causing you to change your gait and putting undue strain on your knees.
Consider your knee as the bridge between the ankles and the pelvic hip girdle. (Because it is.) Though not quite as complicated as the foot, there’s plenty going on in the knee. The most important point of focus for the sake of alignment though is the primary hinge joint.
The hinge joint connects the upper and lower leg and it doesn’t have nearly the mobility that the ankle joint has. The knee joint is designed to handle weight directly in its center. It’s the increased mobility in the joints in the foot (as well as those in the hips) that can cause the more rigid knee joint to come out of balance or alignment though. And soon, both the ankle and the knee are compensating.
Knee and Ankle Misalignment
Sure, it’s possible to have knee misalignment as the result of a congenital deformity, injury, or meniscus deficiency that causes the weight to be distributed unequally to either the inside (medial) or outside (lateral) of the knee. And if not addressed, this can lead to problems including osteoarthritis, meniscus tears, and ligament injuries.
But when the ankle is misaligned, it’s more than likely going to throw the knee out of alignment as well. And from there, it’s the inevitable domino effect. Imbalances in the structures above the knees will then impact the lumbo-pelvic (i.e. the hips and lower back) region and pull the spine out of its natural and neutral position. And the wave in that kinetic chain keeps going.
You get the picture.
How You Can Lower Your Risk of Injury From Misalignment
If you’re not already struggling with knee or ankle pain, then staying aware at all times that your feet and ankles are in a neutral position when you’re standing will help you prevent knee and ankle misalignment.
Maintaining that alignment is harder though. One of the very best systems for doing that is Pilates. This dynamic system teaches practitioners body mechanics, alignment, and proper technique no matter what plane the body moves in.
So if you’re curious to see how Pilates can help your body perform during running, cycling, or any other athletic venture, contact us today. And get started on your journey to better alignment!