News flash, runners: You’re putting a lot of strain on your knees.
As many as half the injuries associated with running, particularly in lower extremities, occur in the knee, according to research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Indeed, patellofemoral pain syndrome — more commonly known as “runner’s knee” — is commonly cited by the National Institutes of Health as the most common running injury.
If you’ve ever experienced dull pain and tenderness behind your kneecap as a result of running, you might be familiar with this malady. Anything that strains the knees, like running downhill or squatting, tends to exacerbate the discomfort. This can occur when the patella rubs against the femoral groove or there is reduced cartilage in the knee.
In terms of potential causes, studies point to tightness in the hamstrings, quadriceps and iliotibial band or lack of strength in the hamstring, quadriceps and hips. As is with most running injuries, when one structure isn’t functioning optimally, it affects the surrounding structures. In this case, when there’s poor flexibility and strength toward the top of the kinetic chain, it has a detrimental effect lower down at the knees.
Whether you suspect you harbor some of the risk factors for developing runner’s knee and you’re looking to make a pre-emptive strike, or you’re already feeling the effects of this injury, there are a number of actions you can take. In particular, it’s important to focus on strength, flexibility and mobility at the hips. Just three weeks of hip-strengthening work has been shown to make a difference when it comes to reducing pain associated with runner’s knee, according to the Journal of Athletic Health, so it’s well worth your time if you’re struggling with this issue.
Choose 6-8 of these simple exercises 2-3 times per week to prevent or address pain and dysfunction associated with runner’s knee. While these are similar to what many clinicians recommend to address these types of issues, if you need more guidance, it’s worth making an appointment with a physical therapist who can specially design a program for you.