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Running without Knee Pain

Knee pain is one of the most common problems amongst runners.  The location of knee pain can vary.  Sometimes the pain is at the patellar tendon (patellar tendonitis) or quad tendon (quad tendonitis).  It could be on the outside of the knee along with the IT band (IT Band syndrome).  It may be from a meniscus injury across the joint line.  It may even be on the inside of the knee and results in knee bursitis.  Sometimes, the kneecap does not track properly and can cause patellofemoral syndrome. To obtain a specific diagnosis, you would need an examination from a medical doctor or physical therapist.

Some factors that contribute to various types of knee pain with running include an abnormality in the way the lower leg lines up with the hip, knee, and foot and improper tracking of the kneecap.  In some cases, pain with running is associated with poor mobility of the hips and the ankle.  You may also have weakness in your outer hip, thigh, or buttock muscles.  In addition, if you have difficulty stabilizing at your core, your running mechanics may be affected which could manifest as knee pain. The best way to know what is contributing to your knee pain is to have a movement assessment performed.

Although there are differences in how you should treat different types of knee pain, the basic principles of rehabilitation still apply.

The first common sense recommendation is to take a short break from running.  This allows pain and irritation to subside and healing to take place.  If pain persists, receiving hands-on therapy to the calf and thigh muscles and knee cap can alleviate pain more quickly.  Once pain is at a manageable level you can address the root causes of your knee pain.

If you have trouble getting your knee completely straight, exercises to restore knee extension should be performed.  Banded calf raises, quad sets, and terminal knee extension exercises are some of our favorite movements to improve extension.

If you have weakness, learning activation exercises to engage muscles that are not firing well is key.  In some cases, the hamstring and gluteal muscles are not quite strong enough to assist with a running stride.  This may result in over-activation of the quad muscles and excess pull on the knee cap.  In addition, the outer hip and core muscles may not be strong enough to keep an optimal running technique.  In these types of circumstances, bridging, side-lying hip abduction, and side planks can help activate underperforming muscles.

To achieve lasting results, functional strength must be developed.  Even runners need to participate in some sort of strength training routine in order to stay healthy.  Squats, deadlifts, step-ups, and lunges should be part of a runner's strength training routine.  When performed with good technique while maintaining proper tension, these types of exercises will enable running for the foreseeable future.

Most of these exercises can be found in our exercise library.

Finally, your footwear and running technique should be assessed.  If you're not wearing the right footwear for your body or you have a poor running technique you may be placing excessive strain on your knees.

When addressed with a specialized physical therapy assessment and plan of care, running without knee pain is possible. However, any sort of repetitive activity with poor mechanics can develop into a more serious knee condition.  If you have knee pain with running, the physical therapists at Movement Solutions would be glad to be a resource for you.

When addressed with a specialized physical therapy program, running without knee pain is possible.  However, ignoring pain and engaging in repetitive activity can result in a further decline of your knee health.  If you're worried about your knee pain, the physical therapists at Movement Solutions would be glad to help you.

We invite you to request a knee consultation with one of our specialists.  This is an opportunity to ask questions, obtain clarity about your knee pain, and foster confidence that we can help you.  If you’re certain that we’re a good fit to work together, you can decide on the next step.

If you’re in knee pain but unsure about what you should do, call us at (864) 558-7346 and ask how we can help.

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