Running is a sport that can be very taxing on the body, specifically on the knees and joints. Even long-time runners who take great care of their bodies can experience one or more of the common knee injuries because of overuse, inappropriate footwear, improper training or a biomechanical problem that affects how the strain is distributed.
Most runners turn to a physiotherapy clinic once they start having a lot of pain in their knees, but they do not realize that they can benefit more by learning some tips and exercises on how to prevent it in the first place. This means they can run more efficiently without any pain or problems, and they will not be disrupted from practicing the sport due to a completely avoidable injury.
The Most Common Knee Injuries Due To Running
- Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
Runners will normally feel some pain in the area around the kneecap or patella. It becomes worse when they are going up and down the stairs, and they might notice a clicking or grinding sensation as well. This type of knee injury is caused by the muscle imbalance of the thighs, specifically when the quadriceps are weaker than the hamstring muscles.
The quadriceps are in-charge of the knee cap’s position and movement while running, so when there is poor control, there can be a malalignment and pain. Another contributing factor can be weak hip muscles which, in turn, may affect the alignment of the knees. A physiotherapist can help assess the exact reason for the pain and ways to deal with it.
- Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome
This kind of knee injury is more common with long-distance runners when they feel a sharp or burning pain on the outside knee. The symptoms may usually fade after the runner is at rest, but the aching might also spread up and down their thighs when walking.
The Iliotibial band is an extension of the outer hip muscles, thick and fibrous, which then attach below the knee. The muscle can become tight and cause some compression against the bone on the side of the knee. This kind of knee injury can be triggered when there are quick training changes done, or when one runs on cambered roads. It might, however, also be due to poor biomechanics of one of the feet.
- Patella Tendonitis
This is more commonly seen in athletes who jump, but it may also affect runners. The patella tendon extends from the quadriceps and then transfers the weight and load on the muscles to the front of the shin, just below the knees. This can happen when there is overtraining or a muscle imbalance in the lower legs, specifically microscopic damage at the tendons. The pain will come gradually and the tendon feels tender to the touch. It might also feel thicker and stiff after waking up. However, the pain gets worse when they are running on hard surfaces and jumping repeatedly.
Physiotherapy Exercises To Prevent Knee Injuries
- Quadriceps Stretch
While standing up straight, grab your right ankle with the right hand. Pull the ankle upwards towards the buttocks, and you should feel a pull in the muscles in the front of the leg. Hold the position for at least 30 seconds before repeating 3 times. Switch sides and repeat.
- Hamstring Stretch
Stand on your injured leg on a step or a staircase. Try to bend forward slightly from the hops and keep the back straight. You should be able to feel a pull at the back of the thigh. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. Switch sides and repeat again.
- Kick Backs Exercise
While standing up, hold onto a chair. Bend your right knee and lift the right foot as high as you can towards the glutes. Hold the position for 3 to 5 seconds. Try to do sets of 10 to 15 reps at least twice a day, making sure you keep the upper body straight at all times. Do the same for the other side.
- Bridging Exercise
Lie on your back on the bed, bending the knees at a 90-degree angle and keeping the feet flat on the bed. Contract the abdominal and buttock muscles and lift the glutes up from the bed as high as possible without arching the back. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds and lower slowly. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
- Clam Shell Exercise
Keep the feet together and lie on the side, the hip and knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Lift the top knee away from the bottom, keeping the feet together. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
- One Leg Stance
Stand on the injured leg while raising the other leg for 2 minutes, do this twice a day. To make it more challenging, stand on an uneven surface or a pillow.
- Calf Raise Exercise
Stand and hold on to a chair. Slowly tiptoe and go back to the standing position. Repeat 20 times.
- Wall Squats
Stand with the back against a wall and keep the feet a shoulder-width apart. Bend knees and go down to a squat position. Straighten the legs and go back up to the starting position. Do 10 sets while trying to hold the squat longer and deeper.
- Bend and Reach
Stand on the injured leg and try to slowly reach down to the floor, at the same time extending the other leg behind you. Hinge forward at the hip and go back. Do this 10 times on each leg.
- Lunges Exercise
Stand straight, both feet facing forward. With the injured leg, take a step forward and drop the non-injured knee. Keep the injured knee close to the body, but not past the toes. Keep the upper body upright. Push off with the front foot and go back to standing position. Repeat 10 times on each leg.
Avid runners should not wait for any pain before they start with these exercises, as they can strengthen the knees and avoid any injury in the first place.