Knee Pain: What Every Dancer Must Know
Updated: Feb 16
Dr. Carrie Skony is a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician® and a Dance Medicine physician who treats dancers throughout the Chicago area. Dr. Skony’s passion is keeping dancers healthy and injury-free so they can dance stronger and longer. She is committed to ongoing studies in dance medicine research and injury prevention. You can learn more about Dr. Skony at www.drcarrieskony.com or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
KNEE PAIN: WHAT EVERY DANCER MUST KNOW
Knee pain is common in Irish dancers, second only to pain and injury at the foot and ankle, and accounts for 20% of all injuries in Irish dance. There can be many factors that contribute to a knee injury, but what every dancer must know in regards to the knee is that: Where the pain is, is not always where the problem is. Here are three common problems that can lead to pain and injury at the knee: HIP WEAKNESS To understand the connection between the hip and the knee let’s do a brief anatomy review. The mechanics of the knee is largely controlled by muscles at the hip, specifically the gluteus medius muscle. The gluteus medius muscle lies at the side of the hip and functions to lift the leg to the side (hip abduction). It also helps to rotate the hip, and keeps your pelvis level while walking or standing/landing on one leg (prevents “sinking into” the hip). When gluteus medius is weak it causes the knees to fall inward relative to the hip and foot especially when landing from jumps. We call this medial knee displacement. If you want to check to see if you have a weak gluteus medius, watch your knees in the mirror as you squat on one or both legs, or when you land from a jump. If you’re weak, you’ll notice that one or both knees falls inward towards midline of the body.
(Correct alignment vs. medial knee displacement and lack of ankle dorsiflexion)
The gluteus medius should ideally be 4x more active at the hip than the inner thigh muscles (adductors) are. This means that when the inner thigh is either tight or too strong, and the outer thigh isn’t strong enough, it puts excessive stress and strain on the knee joint. This can lead to knee injuries such as patellofemoral pain syndrome (tracking dysfunction), patellar tendonitis, IT Band syndrome, medial ligament sprains, and even meniscus tears. To address this risk, dancers should work on targeted strengthening of the gluteus medius muscle. Also, try stretching or inhibiting the adductor muscle group in the inner thighs with either passive inner thigh stretches, and by rolling on a foam roller.
(keep leg in line with spine)
Hip Abduction + Extension
(kick up and back leading with the heel, use the hip and don’t arch the back)
Inverted Clam + Kick Back
(keep hip rotated in, start with knees together, use the hip to kick up and back lead with the heel)
(focus on hips going backward instead of down, and watch knee alignment in the mirror)
Banded Fire Hydrants
(practice with the knee and hips slightly bent, and again in a deep bend for different challenges, watch the alignment of the supporting leg so knee doesn’t fall inward; working leg lifts up and towards the back)
Single Leg Step Outs
(focus is on proper alignment of hip, knee, foot) bend hip/knee and tap the heel and watch in the mirror