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Jeffrey Dabkowski, PA-C

Every year, millions of Americans are diagnosed with knee pain. Many of these patients seek out treatments, from simple and easy, to complex and invasive.

Sometimes medication is all that is needed for a sprain or a strain, and other times, surgery may be required to fix the issue at hand. What happens when common fixes do not work? What should be done next?

While the knee joint is the most typical source of knee pain, the hip joint is a common culprit and the next most likely cause of pain. Let’s take a look at how the hip joint can lead to discomfort down at the knee.

The mechanism of this connection is not well understood yet. Some researchers believe it has to do with how the nerves branch to our muscles and tissues.1 Other researchers consider the thought that the nerves themselves are responsible for the pain.2,3 Regardless, it does seem to be accepted that roughly 65 percent of patients who have a hip issue end up experiencing knee pain.1

Does this sound like you? Has a clear diagnosis or understanding of why your knee is causing you such pain not been established between you and your provider? Have you have tried many options such as medications, injections, physical therapy and other treatment options with no relief?

Next time you are frustrated that your knee isn’t getting better and it is not clear why, ask your provider to examine your hip. The answer may be lying just a little bit above where you think it is.


  1. Khan NQ, Woolson ST: Referral patterns of hip pain in patients undergoing total hip replacement. Orthopedics, 1998, 21: 123–126
  2. Ruch TC: Visceral sensation and referred pain. In: Fulton JF, ed. Howell’s textbook of physiology, 15th ed. Philadelphia: WB Saunders, 1946, pp 385–401.
  3. Sinclair DC, Weddell G, Feindel WH: Referred pain and associated phenomena. Brain, 1948, 71: 184–211

Jeffrey Dabkowski, PA-C, is a Physician Assistant at OrthoCarolina's Sports Medicine Center, practicing with Dr. Durham Weeks. He is the lead PA on the medical staff for Davidson College Athletics. He specializes in issues affecting the hip, knee and shoulder.

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