Don’t Let Your Knee Pain Hold You Back!

Man holding knee in pain

Don’t Let Your Knee Pain Hold You Back!

Did you push through knee pain all winter long? Do your knees ache and slow you down in the morning? Are you nervous to do summer activities like hiking, biking and climbing? Have you had surgery on your ACL, MCL, LCL and/or PCL? It’s time to have long lasting pain relief that helps prevent future injuries plus allows you to enjoy year-round activities.

A study done in 2015 supports acupuncture, in combination with functional training exercises, is more effective than exercise alone after knee meniscus repair surgery. All individuals in this study were diagnosed using MRI and arthroscopic findings with meniscus tears. The entire group underwent surgery and was treated with functional exercises after surgery. The group was split in two groups; one group received functional training exercises and no acupuncture, the other group received functional training exercises and acupuncture. The Acupncture group showed reduced pain and higher range of motion faster than the non-acupuncture group. Acupuncture is not only an effective pain reliever, it also treats the underlying cause of the pain.

What your knee looks like

To understand how acupuncture can treat and prevent knee injuries it is helpful to look at the intricate structure of the knee. The knee has four bones, four cartilages, five ligaments, and two major tendons that provide the knee with stability and strength. The four bones are the tibia, femur, patella, and fibula. The femur is the longest and strongest bone in the body. The tibia or the shin bone, runs from the knee to the ankle. The patella is a flat, triangular bone whose function is to protect the knee joint and relieve friction between the muscles and the bones. The fibula runs on the outside of the lower leg along side of the tibia.

Between the tibia and femur are two shock-absorbing cartilages called menisci to help stabilize the knee and create a wedge effect. Articular cartilage is on the ends of the femur and tibia allowing the bones to move against each other without pain.

Connecting the four bones are five ligaments; the medial collateral ligament (MCL), lateral collateral ligament (LCL), anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), and patellar ligament. The MCL and LCL limit the sideways motion of your knee. The ACL limits the forward motion and rotation of the tibia. The PCL is deep inside the knee and limits the backwards motion of the knee. The patellar ligament attaches the kneecap to the tibia.

The two major tendons in the knee are the patellar tendon and quadriceps tendon. These tendons connect major muscles to the knee and create more stability and strength.

Acupuncture channels that go through your knee

Acupuncture is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine and has a history of over 5,000 years. Acupuncture points are along connected channels or meridians in the body. Each acupuncture point has a specific function to help recover and strengthen the body. There are twelve primary and eight extraordinary acupuncture channels. Of these, there are six primary and five extraordinary acupuncture channels that run through the knee; several acupuncture points along these meridians specifically address the knee.

Acupuncture points benefiting the sinews

Sinews are tough fibrous tissue connecting muscles to bone and bones to bones. Sinews encompass both tendons and ligaments and are widely discussed in acupuncture texts. Since the knee is made up of sinews, I use specific acupuncture points to lubricate/moisten, strengthen, and repair sinews whenever I see someone with knee pain or any joint pain. Along with acupuncture, I also utilize electric-acupuncture and moxibustion.

Electro-acupuncture’s role with muscles and tendons

Electro-acupuncture is connecting acupuncture points with small clamps and running an electric current between the two points. This increases the circulation, relieves pain and reaches a larger area than the needles alone. Electro-acupuncture is not painful; it feels like a slight tapping or buzzing sensation.

Moxibustion benefiting muscles and tendons

Moxibustion is the burning of an herb on or near the skin in addition to acupuncture. I use the herb mugwart also known as artemesia vulgaris when performing moxibustion. This herb increases circulation, reduces swelling, and alleviates pain. It has been very effective in treating knee pain associated with chronic and acute injuries.

Importance of preventative maintenance

Once your knee pain has reduced, it is extremely important to continue maintenance treatments for your knees especially when you do high impact sports. Our knees try their best to keep up when we continue to jump, twist, and/or stretch. This wear and tear on the menisci, tendons, and ligaments will eventually become chronic if you do not give yourself rest days and restorative care. Many people come in for tune-up acupuncture treatments and continue to flourish with no pain.

How acupuncture helped my knees recover

This past winter I strained both of my knees while at the top of Keystone. Fortunately and unfortunately, I did this while scooting along at the high speed of 2mph at the end of November. The pain was so severe I thought I had taken myself out of the season. I immediately went to see if I had torn anything and it turned out to be a strain. Luckily, I knew that if I treated my knees regularly with acupuncture, chiropractic, massage and rolfing I would be able to continue skiing this year. I gave myself acupuncture treatments three times a week, reduced my twisting and high impact activities and had additional treatments every other week for two months. With only two weeks off from skiing, I was able to ski all season; however, It took a solid three months before I felt confident in my knees to push myself. Now, I feel strong with rigorous activity and I am completely pain free!

Come in and give your knees much needed R&R.

Alyssa Kuge Frain, MSAOM, L.Ac.

[1] Sun XX, Gao SN, Chen WY, Wang H, Gu YL. Effect of the Function Training Combined with Acupuncture Moxibustion in Rehabilitation Treatment of Meniscus Injury of Knee Joint [J]. Journal of Liaoning University of TCM, 2015(12):165-168.


[3] Ardali G. A daily adjustable progressive resistance exercise protocol and functional training to increase quadriceps muscle strength and functional performance in an elderly homebound patient following a total knee arthroplasty[J]. Physiotherapy theory and practice, 2014, 30(4): 287-297.

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