Would you like to learn how to prevent knee pain when running
Then you have came to the right place.
Whether you’re training to lose weight or for your very first marathon, running is an awesome way to get in shape and maintain good health.
It’s good for your waistline, your heart, and even your brain.
At the same time, running comes with a certain degree of injury risk.
The high impact repetitive nature of the sport can place a lot of stress on your joints, especially the knees.
As a matter of fact, surveys show that up to 70 percent of runners may experience knee issues at a point.
That’s why for some people running is synonymous with knee pain.
This is especially the case if you drastically increase your running mileage too quickly, train with bad form, wear the wrong shoes, or have muscle imbalances—common training blunders among all runners.
But is that enough reason to stop running altogether?
Of course: NO!
Knee Pain in Runners – The Definition
There are many overuse injuries that strike the knee joint.
One of the most common is known as runners knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS).
The condition is also pretty common among those who any sports that involve repeated stress to the knee joint.
So what is all about?
Runners’ knee is all the catch term used to refer to pain in the kneecap.
The condition causes an achy, dull pain at the front of the knee and around the kneecap.
It’s widespread among runners, basketball players, cyclists, and those who participate in sports involving jumping.
Symptoms may include a dull ache or sharp pain, grinding or clicking on or around the patella, and chronic stiffness.
Classic treatment options include cold therapy, anti-inflammatory meds, and stretching.
Knee pain, especially runners knee, is sometimes caused (and often made worse) by tightness in the muscles and tendons that connects to the knees, especially the quads, calves, hamstrings, glutes, and hips.
That’s why when it comes to soothing and preventing knee issues in runners, stretching can help.
Don’t take my word for it—research backs this up.
A study published in American Family Physicians reported that increase strength and flexibility in the quad muscles is more effective than the routine use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or knee braces for soothing and preventing pain.
How to Prevent Knee Pain when Running
Here is the little secret.
All you got to do is protect your knees from the get-go by taking some of the following injury prevention measures to protect your knees while running.
Prevent Knee Pain When Running – 1. Wear The Right Shoes
The foot is a very complex part of the human anatomy.
It’s made up of 19 muscles, 26 bones, 107 ligaments, and 33 joints—and these take the brunt of a foot strike when running.
Since running is a high impact sport that places a great deal of stress on the knees, wearing the right trainers not only helps you to run faster and longer, but may also reduce risks of pain and injury.
A good running shoe is designed specifically to diffuse the load shooting up the rest of your leg.
By training in improper shoes, you might increase risks of knee pain (and other issues)—and you don’t want that.
Just don’t get me wrong.
I’m not suggesting that proper shoes are the ultimate solution to your knee issues.
But it’s a start, and an important part of an overall prevention and treatment and plan.
That said, I should also point out—and this may surprise some of you—that the current research on the effectiveness of running shoes in improving performance and preventing overuse injury is, at best, mixed.
This link provides you with more insight on the subject at hand.
Yet, in my experience, a proper pair is non-negotiable—regardless.
Therefore, to stay safe, you got to find a shoe that fits your feet properly.
More importantly, go for a pair that supports your natural foot type—whether you’re neutral, high arched (supinator), or flat-footed (overpronator) runner.
To find a suitable pair, head to your local running store and ask for a foot type and gait analysis, which will help you find what best matches your physiological and training needs.
Also, be sure to replace your trainers regularly.
The more miles you run in a pair, the more worn down the shock absorption becomes.
This increases the load stresses shooting up your legs, which, in turn, could result in knee pain.
As a general rule, change your running shoes every 400 to 500 miles—depending on your training intensity, body weight, running terrains, and personal preferences.
For more advice on how to pick proper running shoes, check these posts:
Additional Resource – Here’s how to use KT Tape for runners knee.
Prevent Knee Pain When Running – 2. Strength Train
Strength training is good for you.
If this is news to you, you have a lot to catch up to.
I have already written extensively on the importance of strength training for runners here.
More specifically, a good strength routine can do wonders for preventing knee pain—and all sorts of overuse injuries.
For instance, if the muscles of your lower body are weak, then it’s your joints—mainly the knees—that take the brunt of the impact of each pounding strike.
And research supports this.
One example is a study published in the Journal of Athletic.
In the research, almost 80 percent of runners with knee issues reported experiencing less pain after three to four weeks of hip and core strength training.
Not convinced yet?
Another research published in Medicine & Science found that female runners with patellofemoral joint pain —a notorious overuse injury colloquially known as “runner’s knee” —had a deficit in hip external rotation, abduction and extension strength, when compared to age-matched injury-free runners.
So, to avoid the pain (or to keep it from creeping back), spend time doing strength training exercises that target your lower body.
Specifically, exercises targeted at your knee stabilizing muscles. These include your hips, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. This makes it hard to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to identifying the most effective strength exercises.
The following exercises consist of my seven favorite moves. They’re easy to perform, effective and suitable for most runners regardless of fitness level or training background..
Additional resource – Knee brace for running
Begin with your back against a wall with feet shoulder-width apart, two to three from the wall.
To do this move right, slowly slide your back against the wall, using your hands on the wall for balance, until your legs are bent at a 90-degree angle and thighs parallel to the ground.
Make sure your back is against the wall with feet and legs parallel the entire time.
Next, press your back against the wall, and hold the squat with your hands in front, for one to two minutes.
Do two to three sets.
2. Side-Lying Straight-Leg Hip Abduction
Start by laying on your side on the floor or on the mat with your legs stacked on top of one another with hips flexed to 30 degrees.
Next, raise the top leg up as high as possible, hold it for a count of three at the top position, then return to starting position.
Make sure that your movements are very slow, small and targeted to the glutes medius—the muscle just below and behind the hips. Be sure this muscle is firing properly by doing your best to engage it throughout the movement.
Place your hand on it if you have to.
Do at least 10 reps on each side to complete one set.
Do two sets.
3. Straight Leg Raise
Start by lying on the floor or mat on your back with one leg straight and the other bent.
Next, while keeping your lower back in contact with the ground, raise your straight leg to about 45-degree angle with the knee and toes facing the ceiling the entire time.
Hold it for a count of three, then slowly return to the starting position.
Do at least 8 reps on each side to complete one set.
Aim for two sets.
Find a bench or a step, about two feet high, and place your foot on it.
Your knee should be at a 90-degree angle.
In case you don’t have a bench or plyo box nearby, then a dining room chair can do the trick.
To begin this exercise, step up onto the support with your right foot, then the left, straightening your knees fully.
Then step down to the starting position by leading with your right foot, then the left, until you end up with both feet on the floor.
If you have balance issues, then pump your arms while doing this move.
Do at least 16 steps before leading tithe left foot for another 16 steps to complete one set.
Do two sets.
Additional resource – How to choose Chiropractor for runners
5. Sit to Stand
Start by sitting in a firm chair, feet on the floor with a small ball or pillow between your knees.
Sit on the chair so that your hips and knees both form right angles.
Next, while leaning forward, raise up and stand up straight and then sit back down in a slow and controlled manner.
In case this version is too challenging, you can always make it easier by pushing up through your arms, and keep in mind that the lower the chair, the harder the exercise.
Repeat for at least 12 times to complete one set.
Do two sets.
To make this exercise more challenging, wrap a resistance band around both legs just below your knees.
Start by laying on your right side, preferably with your back to a wall, with your hips and knees bent at a 45-degree angle, legs stacked.
Next, while keeping your feet in contact with each other, raise your left knee as high as possible without moving your pelvis, pause for a moment, then slowly bring it down to starting position.
Do 16 to 20 reps on one side, then switch sides.
You can make this exercise more challenging by grabbing a pair of dumbbells.
Begin by standing on your right foot, then raise your left foot behind you and bend your knee so your left shin is parallel to the floor.
Make sure to keep the left leg off the floor the entire set of reps.
Next, bend forward at your hips, and slowly lower your body as far as you can, pause, then push your body back to the upright position.
Make sure your chest is up and core activated throughout the movement.
Shoot for at least 12 to 15 reps on one leg, then switch sides to complete one set. Do at least 3 sets.
Here are some my favorite routines.
Prevent Knee Pain When Running – 3. Eat Right
When dealing with knee pain, don’t overlook the power of diet.
As a runner, you’ll need the right nutrients and substances to help protect your cells from damage and maintain healthy joints.
For starters, get plenty of calcium.
Most experts recommend 1,100 to 1,300 mg of this mineral each day.
Dairy products and dark green veggies are some of the ideal sources of calcium.
Here is the full guide to calcium foods.
Another nutrient is omega-3 fatty acids.
These fatty acids are natural anti-inflammatories that can help ease joint inflammation before it damages the joints.
The best sources of omega-3s include salmon, herring, tuna, cod, sardines, and mackerel, as well as fish oil supplements.
Furthermore, you might need to supplement.
Many athletes take Chondroitin sulfate and Glucosamine supplements to deal with joint pain since it’s believed that these encourage cartilage formation and repair.
However, the research is still mixed on the effectiveness of the supplements, so consult a certified physician if it can be helpful to your case.
Most experts recommend a minimum dosage of 1,200 mg of Chondroitin sulfate and 1,500 mg of Glucosamine daily.
Additional Resource – Running after knee replacement
Prevent Knee Pain When Running – 4. Lean Forward
If your knees are in pain while running, it could be that you need to change your form—more specifically, your trunk position.
In fact, according to this research paper published in Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise, an increased trunk flexion may decrease compressive forces on the patellofemoral joint.
In English: a slight forward lean while running reduces the load placed on the knees, which, in turn, cuts the risks of discomfort and injury at the joint.
Opting for a slight forward lean while running may help shift your weight from the knees to the hip, thus reducing impact forces on the knees.
That said, getting the slight forward lean right is a bit tricky.
Here is how to do it right:
Make sure that the lean, or the “fall,” is coming from the ankles, not the hips.
It should feel almost like you’re falling forward.
You should not feel broke nor bent at the trunk.
Allow your torso to come a bit forward—at least seven to ten degrees, according to the before mentioned research—while simultaneously flexing your hips and lower abdominals subtly.
In other words, opt for a mild lean, not a complete bent-over position.
Think skiers stance.
Here is an awesome YouTube Tutorial
Prevent Knee Pain When Running – 5. Increase Your Cadence
Another technique tweak to consider when dealing with knee pain from running is to to avoid overstriding.
So what is it all about?
When you overstride, you’re, in essence, reaching too much forward with your legs as you swing them forward in front of your “center of gravity
When you do, you’ll be slamming your foot down, creating a braking action with each stride.
Then, all of these impact stresses of hitting the ground goes right up your feet to your knees.
This, in theory at least, limits your efficiency and increases your risk of injury.
As a result, most experts agree on the fact that overstriding is bad.
Do not let your feet get ahead of you.
Make sure to stay ahead of your feet.
Do not let your legs swing forward, not to the rear.
Here is the good news:
Reducing stride length can put a stop to overstriding, thus decrease injury risk, research shows.
And one of the best ways to do so is to simply increase your cadence.
In fact, research conducted at the University of Wisconsin found that an increased cadence reduces the impact load on the lower body.
Here is how to improve your cadence:
Determine your current cadence by counting how many times your feet hit the ground in one minute of running.
If it’s over 160, you’re in the clear.
But, if your cadence is below 160 steps per minute, they should increase it by 5 to 10 percent from one week to the next.
Additional resource – Sore quads after running
Prevent Knee Pain When Running – 6. Stretches For Knee Pain
There are plenty of exercises that focus on stretching the quadriceps, hips, hamstrings, and knee regions.
By performing these stretches regularly, you’ll help keep your muscles loose, limber, and up for the job, which will provide better protection for your knees.
Perform these exercises on both legs if you experience pain on either side, back off the stretch, and go slow.
Stretch For Knee Pain – 1. Quadriceps Stretch
The quads, the muscles located at the front of your thighs—are a major knee supporting muscle.
The following stretch loosens up these muscles as well as the tendons in the front of the knee joint.
It also helps improve flexibility in the hip flexors.
Start by standing at an arm’s length away from a wall with your injured limb bather from the wall.
While facing forward and keeping your core engaged, support yourself by keeping one hand against the wall.
Next, grab your ankle and pull it up behind you towards your buttocks.
Don’t pull your knee to the side—instead, keep pointing downward.
Keep your knees together the entire time.
Hold it for 30 to 45 seconds.
Stretch For Knee Pain – 2. Side Lunge Stretch
Side lunges loosen up and stretch the hip adductors—another important muscle that impacts knee function by stabilizing the hips (and the reason it helps with hip pain from running).
When your adductor are tight, your hips and pelvis may not be stable.
Begin by standing, assuming a wide stance, feet far apart.
Next, while engaging your core and moving your feet to a 45-degree angle, lunge to your right side, bending your right knee, and keeping the opposite leg straight.
You should feel a deep stretch in your thigh.
For extra balance, place your hands on the floor in front of you.
Hold for 30 to 45 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
Additional guide – How to prevent Foot pain in runners
Stretch For Knee Pain – 3. Hamstring Stretch
The hamstrings, the muscles in the back of your thighs, running from the hips to the knees and actually cross the knees., are key.
These help support the knees and hips.
A hamstring strain can also cause knee pain.
Lie on your back with your left leg extended in front of you.
Bend your right leg, wrapping your hands around the back of your right thigh, and slowly start to pull it toward you.
You should feel the tension in the back of your thigh and up to the base of your glutes.
While keeping your hands under your leg just above the knee, pull your right thigh toward you gently.
Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
Stretch For Knee Pain – 4. Hip Flexors Stretch
The hip flexors, combined with the chair lifestyle and running, can get really tight.
When your hips get too tight, your body will overwork the quads, which places a lot of pressure on your knees.
Start by kneeling your right knee on the ground and your left leg at a 90-degree angle in front of you.
While keeping your back flat, put your hands on your right knee, then lean into your right leg to feel your hips open up.
While keeping your right knee pressed to the floor, lean forward into your left hip while engaging the muscles in your left buttocks.
Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then switch.
Stretch For Knee Pain – 5. Standing Calf Stretch
Another set of muscles that can put a lot of pressure on the knee when tight are the calves.
When you lack flexibility in your calves, it can cause an inward movement of the knees, which results in pain.
It also places pressure on the feet and may cause injuries like plantar fasciitis.
Begin by standing about three feet from a wall.
While keeping your hands at eye level, put them out, so they’re pressing the wall at a comfortable distance.
Next, place your left foot behind, ensuring your toes are facing forward.
Keep your heel pressed into the floor, then lean forward with your left knee straight.
For more pressure, try rotating the toes in and out slightly to target the lateral and medial part of your calves.
Hold the pose for 45 to 60 seconds, then change sides.
Stretch For Knee Pain – 6. IT Band Stretch
Muscles are only one part of the equation.
You also need to keep your IT band—the ligament stretching along the outside of the thigh, from your hip to the shin—loose and when happy.
When it’s tight, it can lead to knee pain.
Stand upright, with your right leg crossed over your left.
Next, shift your weight into one leg and cross the opposite leg in front.
While raising your left hand overhead, slowly start to lean over to the left until you feel a stretch.
Hold the pose for 30 seconds then, uncross your legs, stand up straight again, and repeat on the other side.
Prevent Knee Pain When Running – 7. Avoid Overtraining
Running too much too soon is the recipe for knee pain—and all sorts of injury.
In fact, whether you’re motivated to lose the pounds as soon as possible or have just signed up for a race, it’s important not to increase training intensity too abruptly.
Instead, ease yourself into running, regardless of how incentivized you feel.
Start with low to moderate intensity runs for shorter distances, then progress as you feel up to it—not the other way around.
One simple rule is to follow the ten percent principle—do not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent from one week to the next.
Also, be sure to take enough rest—when needed—to allow for proper recovery.
Furthermore, listen to your body and train accordingly.
So, for instance, if you’re experiencing knee pain, back off and assess what you’re doing.
In fact, stop running whenever you’re experiencing knee discomfort or pain.
To deal with the pain, opt for the PRICE method.
This consists of:
- Protecting the affected knee from further injury—for example, by using a support.
- Let the affected knee rest by avoiding high impact exercise for a few days.
- Ice the injured knee for 15 to 20 minutes, three to four times per day.
- Compress the affected knee by using a wrap, a splint, etc.
- Elevate the affected joint above heart level to reduce swelling.
If pain persists, seek medical help ASAP.
Dilly-dallying with knee pain will only make your case way more severe—and that’s not something you’d want to.
You are a smart runner, aren’t you?
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How to Prevent Knee Pain When Running – The Conclusion
Running without hurtling your knees can be done if you follow the above guidelines. The rest is just detaisl.
Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.
Thank you for dropping by.