Knee pain is a very common issue among runners as well as our entire population. Although pain is obviously aggravating for anyone and everyone, serious runners tend to get more frustrated with the situation because it may be preventing them from doing what they love or what they love is no longer enjoyable as it has become painful. Just a little advice: Listen to your body. If something is painful (while running or exercising) that’s a good indicator that you probably shouldn’t be doing it. It is only going to aggravate the problem more and could lead to an even more serious injury.
As we are all build and structured differently, what may work for one person, may not work for another. Therefore, I can’t sit here and give you one exercise or one stretch that will cure your pain. I wish it was that easy, but unfortunantly it’s not. Everyone has different imbalances throughout their own, individual body. If you are experiencing knee pain while running, there’s a good chance it’s related to a muscle imbalance somewhere between the core, hips, and legs that’s leading to the kneecap riding inappropriately along the groove of the femur that it slides on.
From books and research I’ve read, as well as from my own experience with myself & clients, I’ve found that many people experiencing knee pain often have tight hip flexors and quads, weakness in the glute medius and maximus, and possibly tightness in the hamstrings and calves.
As you can see, the problem could be arising from numerous places. If you are working with a trainer, it’s the trainer’s job to figure out what these imbalances are and put together an action plan so that you can be on your way to running pain free. If you are not working with a trainer, it may be more challenging trying to figure out/work out your imbalances. Here are a few exercises/stretches I’d suggest trying on your own…
First, and most obvious, following a workout (you should be warm) stretch and foamroll your quads, hipflexors, hamstrings, and calves. Pay attention to how it feels on one side versus the other side (remember we’re looking for imbalances between sides). Try holding an elbow plank for 45s. How’s your core strength? Try a single leg squat to test glute medius/max strength (I’d suggest doing this on a box or bench). Does your knee fall inward as you try to stand? If so, time to do some glute strengthening. Like I said before, you’re looking for imbalances in your body, between sides. Take note if one hip flexor/quad is tighter than the other, or if it’s much easier standing up from a seated position on your right leg versus your left. If this is true, there’s a good chance some compensation is going on somewhere resulting from an imbalance.
Our body works together as one functional unit, rather than indivual, separate parts. This is why it’s so imporant that we have balance throughout our entire kinetic chain. If one piece of the chain is broken, the entire rest of the chain will be affected.
I will post a video of a great strength training circuit for runners (targeting glute medius/max) soon! : )