How To Reduce Knee Pain When Running
Running is a great way to get a full-body cardio workout in, and you can do it almost anywhere, without expensive gear or a gym membership. What to do then, when niggling knee pain starts to occur during a run? If you’re struggling with knee pain after running or even during a jog, there are some ways to reduce and avoid pain so you can keep up with your regular running routine.
Running and knee pain from Runner’s Knee
Knee pain due to running may occur for a number of reasons. Runner’s Knee, or Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) is a common injury for runners and among the general population, caused when the patellofemoral joint where the kneecap (or patella) and the thigh bone (or femur) meet is inflamed or irritated.
Symptoms of Runner’s Knee are pain behind or around the kneecap, especially when running downhill, sitting or squatting for long periods of time. You may also notice a grinding noise when moving your knee, but find that knee movement isn’t impaired. There are a few major causes of Runner’s Knee, which are:
- Tight muscles around the knee causing strain [See how to improve muscle tightness for good with our Mobility 101 article].
- Excessive strain of the knee joint caused by a sudden increase in training.
- Weakness in the quads or glutes causing repetitive strain on the joint.
Traditional wisdom was that ‘bad’ technique or knee alignment caused knee pain after running, but recent medical knowledge suggests this isn’t strictly true. Rather than improper alignment, it’s much more likely that doing too much, too soon, and too often in terms of your training regime is to blame. When we increase our training load quickly without allowing our body to become accustomed to the new strain, and thus cause inflammation and pain. This loading difference can also be exacerbated by acute decreases in mobility that are associated with excessive sitting & lack of movement (See our video below to get a more thorough explanation of why this is the case).
What you can do to avoid knee pain from running
The good news is that Runner’s Knee isn’t associated with tissue damage – the pain is caused by inflammation of the tissue around the kneecap, but doesn’t indicate any cartilage damage or torn tendons. This means treatment through physiotherapy can work to stop knee pain during running, as can slowing down the scale of your running routine and basic exercises.
Other Exercises For Improving Knee Pain
Placing a chair with its back facing you, hold onto it and raise one leg off the ground. With the foot still placed on the floor, slowly raise up your heel until you’re standing on tiptoe, and then slowly bring your heel back down to the floor. Repeat 10 – 15 times with each leg.
Find a step you can comfortably fit your foot on, and allow one foot to be suspended in the air next to the step. Without bending your standing leg, allow your hanging leg to lower next to the step towards the ground. Repeat 10 – 15 times on each leg to strengthen the glutes in the standing leg.
You may find that relief oriented strapping or using a knee brace is a good option for immediate relief of the symptoms of Runner’s Knee. Talk to your physio about whether this option will be helpful for you while you focus on long term rehabilitation.
Of course, basic exercises might not be sufficient to deal with running and knee pain. It can also be hard to simply take the advice ‘just do less & build up slowly without pain’, or mobilise yourself more. Even though in principle, this is the rough answer to solving the problem of runners knee, it is incredibly difficult to quantify. That’s why we would strongly recommend getting some expert advice so we can come up with a clear plan of attack!
At MTP Health, we not only offer physiotherapy, but our team of accredited health physiologists can consult with you to assess exactly why you may be experiencing knee pain, and work with you to develop an exercise plan which will actively treat injuries while helping you achieve your health and exercise goals as well! You can start today with a one on one consultation session, a group or telehealth service consultation to find the right treatment and exercise plan to suit you.
If you’re concerned you may have a knee problem that is damaging tissue or being caused by something else, our blog has the full rundown on knee issues and how to treat them.
BONUS [Full Mobility Routine For Runners]
To get a specific routine customised to your activity needs, come & see us at MTP. During your first appointment, we will be able to run through a comprehensive movement assessment in order to see how your whole body is moving. From there we can provide a complete training program that strengthens your whole body & gets you on the right track towards smashing your health & fitness goals!