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Common Running Injuries | The Knee
As runners, we are no strangers to injury. Googling is often our go-to when we feel some discomfort pop up, but can oftentimes lead us down a rabbit hole, or provide less than accurate information.
The first common running injury we explore is the knee.
This is one of the most common body parts where runners experience pain. Many things can contribute — from your sneakers, to the surface that you are running on, to tightness in other areas of the body. A good rule of thumb for this joint is: “It’s never the knee’s fault”— that is, pain here usually stems from a restriction or dysfunction either at the hip or ankle. The knee is a simple joint – it is just meant to bend and straighten. Tightness in our hip flexors from too much time at our desk and calf tightness are two BIG underlying factors for knee pain.
- Many of y’all have probably been to see a doctor for knee pain, and gotten the lovely diagnosis of “Runner’s Knee” or “Patellofemoral pain syndrome.” Patellofemoral pain syndrome is an umbrella term, and we need to look at the whole system to figure out why the knee is taking on more forces than it should, therefore causing pain. It oftentimes develops from overuse of the quads compared to the glutes, or a restriction in the hip or ankle causing increased rotational forces and inflammation in the knee.
- Rehab Tips: Foam roll quads and calves, stretch hip flexors, glute activation (and strengthening through our FORGE Strength Series!)
- One of the primary symptoms of IT-band syndrome is pain on the outside of the knee, closer to the knee joint. You may notice this pain more when you are going up and down stairs, and it is usually a sharper pain than “runner’s knee.” Fellow FLPT therapist Brendan calls it a “toothache of the lateral knee.”
- You might also notice increased tightness on the outside of the hip (gluteus medius or tensor fascia latae muscles). Restrictions here can increase your risk for developing IT-band syndrome
- Rehab Tip: Foam roll lateral quads and the top/side of your hip. It’s actually not necessary to roll directly on the IT band itself as it takes over 2000 lbs of force to change the structure of this tissue; you’ll get much more bang for your buck by focusing on the lateral quad. If it’s still feeling tight, hamstring restrictions can also contribute to ITB pain, you could try foam rolling the length of your hamstring. Finally, glute activation, glute strength/endurance, and learning how to properly load and engage your glutes while running is essential for keeping IT-band pain from reoccurring.
- Shoe Tip: If you are having increased knee pain when running AND you notice that your knees seem to be diving in a lot when you land (known in the rehab world as “knee valgus”), you may also benefit from shoes with a little bit of support or stability. This will help to control that inward motion from the bottom up. Not sure if you fit this profile? Check with your PT or a running shoe specialty store for an assessment by a professional!
Just a note, if you are experiencing any injury lasting more than a week, it’s always best to check in with your physical therapist or physician to make sure that everything is OK!
Stay tuned for more common running injures and how to treat them!