Most runners tend to experience a knee injury or pain at some point in their running careers. If you haven’t experienced this yet, then you are one of the few lucky ones. But whether it’s happened to you or not, we highly recommend that you arm yourself with information that can save your knees from more pain in the future. In today’s article, we’ll start by going over some of the common causes of knee pain that runners experience and then some useful tips on how you can start running without knee pain or at least with less of it.
Common Causes of Knee Pain in Runners
Commonly referred to as the patellofemoral pain syndrome. Runner’s knee is the most common athletic injuries of all times. You can experience the pain at the front of your knee, either around or under the edges of the kneecap during or after running. The root of the patellofemoral pain varies and can be very challenging to identify. Besides running, the soreness may be aggravated by going down stairs or hills, sitting for long periods, and even squatting.
Iliotibial (IT) band syndrome
IT band syndrome is another quite common knee injury which affects both novice and experienced athletes. It results from the friction of IT band sliding over the end of a femur near the knee. The IT band syndrome can be described as the pain on the outside of the knee. And unlike the Runner’s Knee, ITBS isn’t typically associated with swelling in the area, and also doesn’t cause redness or knee instability.
ITBS-related pain, in most cases, can be sporadic and fades with rest, only to come up out of nowhere after a specific distance. At first, the pain will subside immediately after you stop running. It is distinguished from other kinds of lateral knee pain since the pain usually is slightly above the knee joint.
The Patellar tendinitis is commonly referred to as the Jumper’s Knee. The Patellar tendon is the tendon which connects your muscles at the front of your thighs to the lower leg bone.
The pain may be caused at the front of the knee, at the bony bump at the top of your shin, or at the lower kneecap. The Patellar tendinitis pain is typically insidious and sometimes is related to the abrupt change in training. The pain tends to be aggravated when running, jumping, squatting, prolonged sitting, and descending stairs. Know that it may be severe enough to affect your daily activities like going up the stairs. And besides the pain, you may notice redness, swelling, and warmth.
Meniscus/ Cartilage Damage
The meniscus is a flexible, C-shaped rubbery cartilage which sits on both the inside and outside of your knees. This rubbery cartilage provides stability and protects your knees from the stresses employed on it when carrying out knee bending motions by acting as the shock absorber.
The meniscus might be damaged in the single traumatic injury or even degrade with time over mini-traumas. Individuals who make sudden turns and hard stops like soccer players, or who run on uneven surfaces tend to be at the highest risk for the meniscus damage.
Typically, the pain is along the joint line on the side of the knee and may overlap with the locking sensation of your knee. If you have a torn meniscus, you may experience knee pain, stiffness, and swelling. If the pain and the swelling persist, you may need surgical intervention.
The ankle isn’t the only joint in the body which you can sprain. The knee sprains are also quite common, especially for people who do high impact activities. Knee sprains happen when one or more ligaments in your knee are suddenly torn or strained beyond their normal motion range. The pain can be aggravated when running on uneven surfaces, overuse, falling, and any other movement which overstretched and overworks the ligaments. You can experience swelling around your knee and mild to intense pain each time you perform knee bending or weight bearing movement.
Tips for Running Without Knee Pain
Whether you are training for a big race or enjoying a daily jog, running is an excellent way to maintain good health. But if you don’t take care of your knees, you may not be doing it for very long. As many as 70% of runners experience knee injuries at some point in their lives. As we have discussed, you can suffer different knee injuries while running, jogging, or hiking. So how do you prevent knee injuries? See below for some tips on how to run without pain (or at least with less pain):
1. Get fitted for the right shoes
First and foremost, runners need to look for a shoe which fits their feet correctly. For instance, there are some folks who have narrow feet and others who have wider feet. Visit your local running store and ask them to perform a gait analysis – it will tell you exactly what support you should get for your situation. It will save you from lots of pain, injuries, and suffering, so you can keep relaxed and continue running. They will also recommend specific types of running shoes depending on where you plan on running (trail, treadmill, etc.)
2. Practice balance exercises religiously
They will strengthen both your accessory muscles and core muscles in your legs which will provide you with more stability in your legs. Begin by standing on one leg and hold onto the wall or have a seat or railing nearby to hold onto if necessary. Tighten your core and glutes and hold for around 30 to 60 seconds. Once you can stand on one leg for about 60 seconds, challenge yourself by making it more difficult. For instance, brushing your teeth while standing on one leg.
3. Cross train
A lot of runners tend to focus on one thing only and that’s running. Unfortunately, doing so tends to bring your body out of balance (i.e.: only working certain types of muscles and body parts). For example, if all you do is run, you may end up with hamstrings which are stronger than their quadriceps, which can lead to problems down the road. It is highly recommended that runners add some core-strengthening workouts to their routine to strengthen both the front and back of their thighs and even the muscles of the buttocks and hips.
4. Don’t over-do it
When summer hits, athletes tend to immediately start running the long distances – which is actually one of the worst things you can do. You have to realize that it takes some time for your body to adapt to increased training. Your muscles, tendons and ligaments need time to adjust. So it is recommended to start out slowly and to build your way up to the longer runs you did last summer and spring.
5. Eat right, supplement wisely
In order to maintain healthy joints, as a runner, you need to take in the right types of nutrients. Talk to your doctor about taking natural supplements such as Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate. Glucosamine is an amino sugar which can play a significant role in cartilage repair and formation. While Chondroitin is a complex carbohydrate, which helps cartilage retain water as well as maintain its elasticity.
6. Lean Forward
The way your foot hits the ground while running contributes to forces that impact the knee joint. Leaning slightly forward when running may help to decrease these forces. Many studies have shown that leaning slightly forward while running has the effect of transferring your weight from your knees to your hips, which can help reduce pain in the knee joint area.
7. Keep your feet pointed in the direction you’re running
If your feet tend to splay out to the side while running, this might have a negative effect on you if you run longer distances. Eventually, it will overstretch the tendons and medial ligaments of your knee which can lead to knee pain and even future injury.
Post-Run Tip To Reduce Pain
One thing that can help a lot after a run is cold therapy. Whether you suffer from chronic knee pain or may you just injured yourself during a bad run, cold therapy can help. Icing your knee after a run will help to dull the pain and reduce swelling and inflammation, which can speed up the recovery process. Our Knee Cold Therapy Wrap is a great solution for post-run knee pain since it combines cold therapy and compression:
Hopefully you have learned some new tips and tricks to start running without knee pain, or at least keep it at bay when you run. One thing we haven’t mentioned, and highly recommend, is to hire a running coach for a few sessions. They can analyze the way you run and make slight adjustments to your form which can do wonders in the long run.
If you are an avid runner and have experienced knee pain in the past (or still do), we’d love to hear how you deal with it while you continue running. Just use the comment box below. Until next time!