Are knee and ankle pain related?

Are Knee and Ankle Pain Related? | Advent Physical Therapy

Even though everything in our body is connected, we often think about pain that stems from one part to be completely isolated and localized. But that’s not always the case. If you feel pain in more than one area of your body, there’s a chance that they aren’t independent from each other.

While your knee and ankle may seem like they aren’t too close in proximity to each other, if you’re experiencing pain in both areas at the same time, there could be a related cause. It’s important to determine the reason behind your knee and ankle pain so that you can properly treat the main issue.

Read on to learn about the connection between the knee and ankle, possible causes for the pain and how physical therapy can treat the combined ache.

How are the knee and ankle connected?

While the knee and ankle may seem like they are far apart, they are only separated by the lower leg with a bone that joins the two together. The two joints are connected by the tibia, also known as the shinbone. Since the joints are linked together, their pain can be, too. They are also connected by a nerve, called the peroneal nerve, that starts below the knee and runs down to the top of the foot. 

It’s common for the knee to feel an ache if a problem in your ankle is causing reduced mobility. When the ankle joint is affected by an injury or medical condition, its reduced range of motion can cause the knee to try to overcompensate. Your knee joint will try to take on more of the weight while you move and cause excessive stress.

4 potential causes for related knee and ankle pain

When you’re experiencing pain that affects the entire bottom half of your leg, identifying the cause can help determine the best course of action for treatment. There are a few potential reasons why you could be feeling ankle and knee pain at the same time. While some are caused by injuries, others are medical conditions that cause ankle and knee pain as symptoms.

Here are four potential reasons for concurrent knee and ankle pain:


  • Joint damage — If there is damage in both your knee and ankle joints, the pain can be felt simultaneously in both. Joint damage in the knee and ankle is often caused by joint inflammation, such as arthritis. There can also be an injury that affects one joint, such as a sprain or an overuse injury, causing pain to radiate to the other.

  • Bone fracture — Since the tibia connects your knee to your ankle, a tibia fracture can cause pain that radiates down the bone. A tibia fracture is often caused by a hard blow or trauma, such as a fall. It can also cause swelling and reduce mobility.

  • Muscle imbalance — Imbalances in the muscles that support and bend the knee or ankle joints can cause several issues and lead to pain. A knee or ankle muscle imbalance can lead to instability in the joint as you move. This instability can put additional strain on the unstable joint’s structures and trigger pain. Muscle imbalances that affect one joint can also cause you to compensate by putting more weight on another joint or area of your body. For instance, if your knee joint is unstable, you may compensate by putting more weight on your ankle. The added weight on your ankle can then lead to ankle pain.

  • Tendinitis — Not only is there a peroneal nerve that connects your knee and ankle, but there are several muscles and tendons as well. If you develop tendinitis, meaning the tendons are inflamed, the pain can run throughout the entire muscle/tendon unit, affecting both your ankle and knee. It’s usually caused by overuse, but it can also stem from an injury.

How physical therapy treatments can help your knee and ankle pain combo

One of the best options for treating your concurrent ankle and knee pain is through physical therapy. A physical therapist can determine the cause behind the pain so that they can figure out the treatment plan that will be effective in alleviating the symptoms in both areas. The goal is to treat the source of the pain, so some treatments might not target both the knee and ankle.

Most causes of the pain will benefit from targeted exercises. There are a variety of exercises that will help alleviate the symptoms, such as strengthening exercises that will reduce the pain and flexibility exercises to improve your range of motion. These exercises will also decrease the risk of re-injury due to increased stability in the muscles surrounding your affected joints. 

The pain from tendinitis can be treated with manual therapy, which involves the therapist using their hands in massage-like movements on the affected area to loosen up the tense tissue that’s putting pressure on the nerves and tendons.

Advent Physical Therapy can help alleviate your knee and ankle pain

Physical therapy is one of the best ways to treat concurrent knee and ankle pain because the therapist can pinpoint the source of the pain. Advent PT therapists can target the cause to decrease the pain and help you get back to your daily activities. 

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.