Why do so many people say running is bad for our knees and is so often blamed for knee problems? Running is a high impact sport that many enjoy but it does put trauma through our joints. If done correctly, there is no evidence to show that running is in fact bad for your knees.
It is very important to protect your knee joints from the start of your running programme. Running is a repetitive motion, so therefore injuries can occur from muscle imbalances that can build up over time.
The most common knee issue that occurs in runners are:
- Patellofemoral pain. This can be a painful condition and happens when the patella and femur are not behaving well together. In a good healthy knee, the kneecap slides smoothly in a groove at the end of the thighbone with each step. If the kneecap is out of line for any reason, this can cause pain. Muscle weakness, trauma or biomechanical impairments can contribute to patellofemoral pain.
- ITB issues. This band of fibrous tissue runs down from the hip to the outside of the knee. With overuse or poor form running, this band can tighten and cause pain by rubbing itself alongside the thighbone.
- Patella & Achilles Tendonitis. This condition is painful and running just makes it worse over time. When running the overuse of your tendons around your knee or heel become inflamed and strained. Stopping running for a couple of weeks, stretching and icing can help you recover.
- Meniscus tear. Your meniscus lays on both sides of your knee to provide stability and distribute the stress of weight you put through your legs. One bad movement in running can tear the meniscus. You will suffer swelling around your knee immediately and feel pain straight away. Some tears can fix themselves with rest, but many do require surgery to fix them.
- ACL tears. There are many reasons you can suffer with an ACL tear, by extending your leg too far, stopping too quickly when running, or just stumbling. Your ACL is the ligament that connects your shin bone to the thigh bone on the outside of your knee. If you hear a loud pop when running or experience bad pain, you may have an ACL tear and you must stop running straight away and see your doctor or physiotherapist for treatment and rehabilitation.
- Noisy knees. Many runners notice that their knees become noisy, almost like a crunching sound. This is due to air bubbles in the fluid in the joint that pop as you move. If this is just a noise with no pain, it is not a problem and you can carry on running.
How can you prepare your knees for running?
- Warming up before you run is vital as it is aimed at getting your body ready for the exercise, stamina and strength you need ahead.
- Keep your body strong and build up your stamina. There are many exercises that you can do to strengthen up. Targeted resistance exercises can help strengthen areas that may be letting you down when you run.
- Ensuring that your running shoes are fitted correctly and are also replaced after a certain amount of time. The more you wear them and run in them, you are wearing down the shock absorption, which will increase force into your joints.
- Running on grass – ensuring that you run on a grass is a great start to help reduce the impact of running on your knees.
- Seeing a physiotherapist can help you prepare your body for running, from ensuring your running gait is correct and to advise on any potential problems you may have such as poor running style, joint related problems, areas of poor flexibility and overall posture.
Our physiotherapists at Home Physio Group are highly skilled and experienced professionals and can offer you a personalised exercise programme. We can help you target any weak areas, improve your strength, flexibility, and endurance, and improve your overall performance.