With everyone training for marathons and half-marathons, my clinic sees a TON of knee pain this time of year. Most people do not understand how it happened—they do not remember falling or having a specific injury.
Some people stop running or reduce the amount they are running in hopes of stopping the pain. Most of the time, this is not the answer. By the time they come into my clinic, they are weeks behind on training and may or may not have to stay out of running even longer.
Knee pain can be caused by a number of sources. Sometimes it is something that requires surgery like a meniscus tear or a ligament tear. However, a lot of times it is something that is fixable without having to stop running and without having to resort to surgery. Muscle imbalances and weaknesses that have occurred over time cause a great deal of knee pain. Inflammation of tendons and trigger points in the muscle lead to pain that eventually becomes unbearable.
Many times the issue is weakness in the surrounding muscles. Most runners have quad muscles or muscles in the front that are over-developed paired with inadequate hamstring strength. They also have weaker hips that cause the pain. Muscles surrounding the knee need to be strengthened in order for the knee to be able to function properly without pain.
Below is a short list of exercises to start with to help reduce the muscle imbalances and help with the knee pain. These exercises should also be performed in addition to foam rolling and icing. This is also only a preliminary list of muscles that need to be addressed when having knee pain but these are the easiest to begin at home and do not require any equipment that cannot be found at your house.
- Step downs – If these are not done properly you will feel pain in the knee. You want to make sure that the knee is going over the toe and that the weight is going through the heel of the foot doing the balancing. You also want to make sure that the knee is not wobbling from side to side as you go down.
- Single leg dead lifts – This works the gluts and the hamstrings. It might help to do this in front of a mirror so you are able to see your form.
- Single leg standing – This will help with balance which is needed as every time you strike the ground in running, you do so on a single leg.
- Hip abduction – This can also be done standing on a pillow to make it more challenging. Make sure that you lift your leg out to the side and to the back. You may actually feel this more on the leg you are standing on rather than on the leg you are lifting.
- Bridging – This will help with the gluts and the back and the hamstrings. Make sure you push through the heels to come up. To make it more challenging you can do this on one leg also.
- Mountain climbers – This will work your entire body. The key is to move your legs as quickly as possible and to keep your butt down.
These exercises can easily be performed with the other workouts you are already doing. Inserting these exercises into an existing workout will ensure that you make them a part of your routine and help stave off the unwanted knee pain.