Runner's knee is something you hear fairly regularly in the running world. It is something that can seriously hamper your training or leave you completely sidelined.
Runner's knee is probably something most of you have heard about, but do you really know what it is? Well, I'm going to very quickly try and explain.
Essentially, when there is too much transverse motion in the knee joint, that will put a strain on the muscles and ligaments attaching to the knee joint as well as located internally within the joint.
Now runner's knee is actually a bit of an umbrella term for one of several conditions that can cause this discomfort or pain around the knee cap patella region. But as the name suggests, runner's knee, it is most commonly caused by running, but actually, any activity that stresses the knee joint could be a cause of this disorder. So it could be walking, could be skiing, could be jumping, could even be playing football.
But if you were to have runner's knee what you would experience is perhaps a dull aching feeling above, below, or even behind the kneecap. You may even experience some swelling, or you may even get some cracking, popping, or grinding sort of feeling or sensation within the knee. Now this is all caused by an irritation of the soft tissue or lining of the knee. You can even have worn or torn cartridge, or you could even have some strained tendons.
Let's run through some tips. First of all, you should gradually increase your training volume and intensity, and regardless of runner's knee, that is just good training advice full stop. You should never dramatically increase any of your training. You should always be making sure that it's done incrementally. In fact, if you were to flip through a running book and flip to the chapter on increasing mileage, you would inevitably find them talking about the 10% rule, and what that is referring to is that you should never increase your training or volume by more than 10% per week.
So for instance, if you're currently running 30 minutes at a steady aerobic pace, the following week you'd run 33 minutes, and then the third week 36 to 37 minutes, and then after a month of running you should be up to running around 40 to 45 minutes. And that is actually just a good rule of thumb across all the sports, swimming, cycling, running, and even exercises that you're doing in the gym.
Now let's move on to another really key area and that is your flexibility and your mobility. So here are a few really important stretches that you should really keep on top of. The first one is a kneeling hip flexor and quad stretch, and this is actually one of my all-time faves because not only does it hit a couple of really big key areas at once, it's also just easy to do in front of the TV.
But actually, by doing this stretch, pretty much instantly you can relieve the pressure in your knee and the joint. So get into a knee length lunge position with one knee on the floor and the other leg bent 90 degrees in front of you. This is your starting position. Squeezing your glutes, shift your body weight slightly forward while maintaining an upright torso.
Reach around to grab your foot with your hand and increase the stretch. Hold this for 20 to 30 seconds. Obviously, if your knee is sore, then make sure it is well cushioned, or you can always stand up and put your knee of the sofa behind you.
Now for a quick and easy one and this is the glute stretch. Now the glute is actually the largest muscle in the human body, so by improving the flexibility in this muscle, we will undoubtedly help to easy any knee pain by preventing any overuse or even by improving on any limited movement that might be the cause.
Now lie face up on the floor with your knees and hips bent. Place your right ankle across your left thigh. Grab your left thigh with both hands and pull it gently towards your chest. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and then switch legs. Now when your calves are tight, this can actually force your knees to move in or out.
It tends to be an inwards movement. But this can cause pain. And this is actually another area that I really have to keep on top of. Now stand on the edge of a curb or step and place your left foot on the ground, keeping the ball of your right foot on the step. Allow your right heel to drop below the step and hold here for 20 to 30 seconds and then switch sides.
Additionally, I would really suggest the use of a foam roller. And personally, I would be in a lot of trouble without one of these because it is incredibly common for the ITP to get tight on a lot of athletes, and that can lead to pain or discomfort in the knee, and the best way to loosen that off is by using the foam roller. So lie on your right side and place the foam roller just below your right hip.
Cross your left leg over and place it on the ground in front of you. Keep your right hand or forearm on the ground to stabilize yourself, and then using that left leg, you can push yourself down the foam roller, stopping just above your right knee.
Repeat the same motion but back up towards your hip. Do this as many times as you feel necessary and then switch over and repeat on the other leg. Now another really important area that we need to address is your strength and your stability. Because after all, when we're running, we're essentially hopping from one leg to the other, so it's really important that we're solid and we're stable on one leg at a time.
A really good exercise for this is the single leg squat. Now this is fantastic because it not only helps to improve the strength in both the glutes but also it activates the quads and basically all the muscles in the lower limb. So when you are performing this, the idea isn't just to go for the deepest squat possible. You actually want to execute the squat really well and make sure that everything's really well aligned. So hips are level and the knee tracks nicely over the foot. Stand with both feet pointing forwards, hip width apart. Lift your left foot off the ground and balance on your right foot. Now bend your right leg and slowly lower yourself, making sure your knee doesn't go past your foot or lean forwards.
Push back up slowly to your starting position. Start off with three sets of five reps per leg, and overtime this can be increased or even performed on an unstable ground.
And now for some side leg lifts but with a slight variation because this example is also gonna focus on some core and trunk stability and strengthening.
Laying on your side, support yourself on your elbow and your knee closest to the ground by bending your leg behind you. Make sure your hips are level and legs are stacked on top of each other. Then with a straight top leg, raise it off the floor to a comfortable height without moving the rest of yourself. Then, slowly drop that leg back down. Start off with three sets of five reps per leg.
This will ultimately help to prevent the knees from being unstable or, in fact, over working to compensate. So lie on your right side with your knees bent on top of each other and your right arm under your head to support it. Keeping your feet together, open the clam shell by lifting your top knee up. You should make sure that your pelvis and core remain stable and then slowly close the clam shell.
Repeat 15 times and switch sides.
Well there you have it, these are some tips to hopefully avoid runner's knee for yourself.
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