Four reasons your knee hurts, and what to do about it
Knee pain is super common in runners. Its prevalent for many reasons, which we’ll discuss shortly, but what you really ought to know is that quite often the cause of your knee pain is NOT in your knee. Unfortunately, your knees typically wear the symptoms of your ankle, hip or lower back dysfunction. Before I venture down the rabbit hole of open and closed kinetic chains, let’s get straight into the common causes of knee pain that I see from time to time. Let’s also touch on how to correct the cause, rather than band-aid the symptoms. Yes, it’s probably time you threw out that strapping tape.
Funnily enough, not many people actually know how to run well. Most of us go through a thought process somewhere along the lines of “it’s just running, there’s nothing to it. Just put on some running shoes and put one foot in front of the other!”
This line of thinking would have worked 2000 years ago, before the advent of paved roads, chunky “running shoes” and before we began to spend our days predominantly sitting down. For these reasons – and many more – most people have gross musculoskeletal dysfunction when compared to the optimal biomechanics of running. A late stage of this dysfunction is pain. Ankle pain, knee pain, hip pain or back pain.
So, what to do? Have a coach check out your running style and give you one or two things to focus on. It’s remarkable how much things can change with a little technical analysis.
We’ve written about running shoes already. Check out that article here. Basically, a good shoe will allow your foot to move like a foot is meant to. The human foot has 26 bones and 33 joints; these joints are meant to move! When they’re immobilised by heavy, inflexible shoes it is no wonder you end up with painful issues further up and down the skeleton! I suggest a shoe that is flat, flexible, shaped like a foot, and close to the ground. First for life, second for exercise
Too much, too soon
The fact you used to run back in your early twenties or that you ticked off a half-marathon last year won’t matter if you haven’t been consistent in your training. While we love to promote life-long running through a lifestyle that includes regular running, we’re also very aware that different people prioritise different things. For those out there who like to sporadically or intermittently focus their energy on three or six month goals like choosing a particular running event, we advise you build up the miles gently. Too often we see overuse injuries in the knees of individuals who decided that their first two weeks of training would include something like 100km of running! It doesn’t matter what pace you do it at, the training volume is too much, too soon.
Have someone who knows what they’re doing (we'd like to think that is James Kuegler Coaching), write you a programme with a well-balanced progressive training load that has you in tip-top shape at the right time.
Lack of mobility or maintenance work
This one is a catch all. It goes for all levels of athletes (from beginner to elite) and applies to more than just knee pain. The good old stand-on-one-leg quad stretch simply doesn’t cut – and many of us don’t even manage to do that regularly enough!
Spending at least 10 minutes per day on full-body mobility work is a non-negotiable for James Kuegler Coaching athletes. Even if it means cutting your 60 minute run to 50 minutes so you can fit it in (though we’d argue you need to prioritise an extra 10 minutes over something else in your day), this stuff is pertinent to performance!
James Kuegler Coaching programmes include access to The 10-Minute Mobility Guide and The 10-Minute Mobility Package which provides runners with new and innovative musculoskeletal maintenance exercises that work to prevent injury, rehab niggles and improve running efficiency and overall performance. This stuff is a little more up-to-date than swinging your leg up onto a fence to stretch that hammy!
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