A study by the BC Sports Medicine Foundation discovered that knee injuries accounted for three of the five most common types of running injuries. Most are thought to be caused by overuse, while further research traced knee injuries to weakness or lack of stability, particularly in the hips.
Among the most common knee injuries researchers found is the aptly-named runner’s knee. Runner’s knee, medically called patellofemoral pain syndrome, causes pain at the front of the knee. Normally, when you bend your knees, your knee joint allows the patella (kneecap) to slide smoothly along the femoral groove. A thick layer of cartilage cushions the end of the femur so the patella can track fluidly. However, problems may occur when tight leg muscles or other forces cause the patella to track unevenly resulting in deterioration of the cartilage. Because the patella cannot move smoothly against bone, discomfort or pain occurs.
To minimize the risk of sustaining a knee injury, take care of your leg muscles and follow the right stretching, strengthening, and support techniques.
1. Make Time for Warming Up and Stretching
Warming up and light stretching before and deeper stretching after your run can prevent your leg muscles from getting too stiff. Stretching also improves your flexibility, which can increase your range of motion. If you already have knee pain, post-run stretching can also help to combat soreness and boost recovery.
This guide by Self Magazine outlines the most effective stretching techniques for preventing and alleviating knee pain. They target many different muscle groups around the leg, including quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and abductors. Doing these stretches every day and after every workout can help loosen muscles and increase their capacity to support the knees.
2. Incorporate Strength Training Into Your Routine
According to recent studies, runner’s knee can also occur when the muscles surrounding the knees cannot provide enough support to prevent strain. Strengthening your lower body and core can create better muscle balance and stability for your knees. In particular, you need to do some resistance training and target your hamstrings, quads, calves, glutes, core, and, as researchers point out, your hips.
Even if your main activity is running, you need to work strength training into your routine! A good place to start is our list of Top 10 Exercises for Runners, which outlines some targeted movements like glute bridges, planks, and push-ups. At least two sessions per week targeting your lower body and upper body (core, in particular) will make a world of difference for your knee and overall fitness. Plus, doing strength exercises in between runs can boost the body’s power to increase running speed and improve coordination.
3. Find Cardio Alternatives
If you’re running to improve your cardio, switch it up and try low impact cardio exercises to avoid adding additional pressure on your joints. Some examples of low-impact cardio alternatives are swimming, cycling, rowing, and pilates. Swimming, in particular, can be a good alternative to running as it promotes full body strength while being very easy on the joints.
Get Healthy U is a good resource for finding new workout routines. They have a fitness library that shows most basic exercises and how to execute them with proper form. They also have a whole catalog of workout guides, which can be sorted according to workout length or type. This way, you can easily find a cardio workout that best suits your situation.
4. Choose the Right Running Shoe
Wearing the wrong shoe can limit your mobility and increase the pressure you put on your knees. Choose a running shoe that has enough cushioning to absorb shocks as your feet collide with the ground. Decent arch support can also help reduce the load on your joints, thus minimizing pressure on the knees. You might find yourself afflicted with choice paralysis when trying to find the right fit among many existing brands. Fortunately, there’s just as many people willing to provide insight on shoe products. Consult online communities on Reddit forums or sneaker groups on Facebook. SoleSavy has a broad community of sneaker fans who you can consult, from collectors to fitness instructors. For instance, you can discuss with others the best performing pair for a particular terrain, and then compare opinions from people who have tried and tested these products themselves.
Lastly, be sure to visit your local running store to get fitted in the right shoe that addresses your needs. A hands-on recommendation will serve you well as run specialty stores have a trained staff of runners that can provide gait analysis, overall evaluation and find the shoe to best align with your running goals.
5. Massage Muscles with a Foam Roller, Orb or Massage Stick
Foam rolling is a form of self-massage that can be used to support stretching. Using a foam roller, roller massager or Orb mobility ball, you can roll out tight areas on your muscles to alleviate soreness and promote flexibility. Regularly target tight areas on the lower body to maintain muscle length for better knee support, particularly the quads, hip flexors, calves, and hamstrings. These are easy practices that you can do at home, so make sure to work these moves into your post-workout routines.
Every physical activity comes with its own set of risks. For runners, knees happen to be the most susceptible area. If you want to make it further in your running journey, take extra measures to look after your body so as not to sustain injuries that can hinder you from performing at your best.
A blog article for pro-tecathletics.com
Written by Hollyn Garret