Recover from and prevent Crippling Knee Injuries for the Future
Since the dawn of time, humans have run. Whether from predators, or as one, our legs have always carried us to safety or sustained us. Times have certainly changed since then but our legs are no less important. Running is one of the most normal and natural things a person can do. When we need to do something urgent like run for a bus or out of the way of a cyclist, our natural instincts come into play. Our brain automatically sends signals to our legs and spurs them into action. They are essentially the engine that keeps us moving through our daily lives. As a way of keeping fit and healthy, running is one of the most popular, natural and well-known methods. It dominates many areas of sport as well as being a fully professional sport itself.
With every type of exercise however, there is the chance of injury and running is no different; as a highly physical activity there is actually more chance of incurring an injury. The injury could be self-inflicted, the fault of a competitor in a particularly aggressive sport or simply the result of wear and tear over a sustained period of time. The injury we will be looking at today is Runner’s Knee. Whatever your sporting background, whether you are a professional athlete, gym enthusiast or someone who simply enjoys keeping active, runner’s knee is an injury capable of affecting anyone. Knee pain accounts for over half of all sporting injuries, ranging from torn ligaments to runner’s knee, which is also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome.
The benefits of running for the mind and body are innumerable and important. However, as with every good thing, there are always certain drawbacks. The stress of running can cause irritation where the kneecap (patella) rests on the thighbone. The resulting pain can be sharp and sudden or dull and chronic, and it may disappear while you’re running, only to return again afterward. The cause of runner’s knee is often poorly conditioned quadriceps and tight hamstrings: the weak quads aren’t able to support the patella, pushing it out of alignment and inflexible hamstrings can also put pressure on the knee. It can affect one or both knees depending on how serious it is for you personally. It occurs most frequently in young, recreational runners and twice as much in women as men, mainly because women tend to have wider hips, resulting in a greater angling of the thighbone to the knee, which puts the kneecap under more stress.
The main symptoms of runner’s knee include, tenderness behind or around the centre of the patella, pain towards the back of the knee, a feeling of the knee cracking or giving out. There is no single cause of runner’s knee. There are a range of biomechanical and muscular issues that contribute to it. The main biomechanical reasons being the possibility the patella may be larger on the outside than it is on the inside; it may sit too high on the femoral groove; or it may simply dislocate easily. Worn cartilage in the knee joint also reduces shock absorption whilst high-arched feet provide less cushioning and flat feet or knees that turn in or out repeatedly pull the patella sideways. These are just some of the reasons. Muscular reasons on the other hand include tight hamstrung and calf muscles putting pressure on the knee as well as simple repetitive force during a normal running stride which can be enough to trigger a painful occurrence.
The impact of runner’s knee can be devastating; it can ruin your chances of competing in a much sought after and anticipated competition you have trained for. It may affect your ability to compete as part of a team during your social calendar and then there is the pain factor which can be frustrating and upsetting in equal measure. It can linger as steps, hills, and uneven terrain can aggravate runner’s knee. The end result is feeling demotivated and demoralised because of something which feels out of your control. The good news, however, is you do have the power to improve your fortunes. There are a number of effective treatments available to help strengthen your knees and prevent pain in the future.
The quadriceps are the muscles at the front of your thighs. You can loosen these by – while standing – holding on to a wall or chair, grabbing your ankle and pulling it up to behind your backside. You should avoid pulling your knee to the side so it remains pointing downwards. You hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds, repeating it 3 times before changing to the other knee. This is a great exercise for strengthening your quads which ultimately places less strain on the knees.
The hamstring muscles lie down the back of your thigh. As well as weak quads, tight hamstrings are another contributor to sore knees. To avoid this, stand with your feet hip-width distance apart. Interlock your hands behind your back whilst keeping your legs straight. Bend at the hips, tucking your chin and bringing your hands over your head. Then relax the back of your neck, holding for 30 seconds before slowly rolling back up to a standing position.
Squats help strengthen your hip muscles. There is more risk of incurring a knee injury if your hip-stabilising muscles are weak because it again places more pressure and weight on the knee. Place your feet shoulder width apart and lower yourself by bending your knees to a slightly right angle whilst making sure your back remains straight and your buttocks are rounded inwards. Don’t let your knees pass your toes before coming up slowly, squeezing your buttocks at the end. You should do 3 sets of 10 repetitions for lasting benefit to your knee.
Also published on Medium.