Q: Since I have been training for the Dubai Marathon I have been experiencing knee pain while running. What can I do to alleviate this?
A: What you are describing is a common condition among runners known as ‘Runner’s knee’ or patellofemoral syndrome to be precise. It is important to realise that this associated knee pain is rarely an isolated event within the knee. What we have to have to consider is how the body moves as a whole. The knee is ‘caught in the middle’ between the hip and the knee, each of which can be dysfunctional and contributing to the pain symptoms at the knee.
For example when you are running, if the foot rolls in or out too much, this affects the ankle which will rotate the lower leg bone inwards and increase the forces to the knee. As for the hip, if the pelvis is tilting forward due to tight hip flexor muscles, this will cause the hip bone to rotate inwards, again increase forces to the knee. In many cases, both scenarios will contribute to knee pain while running.
If we think about it: 85 per cent of walking and running is on one leg as every time your foot hits the floor, a force of up to six times your bodyweight travels through the body. So in theory, we are doing lots of one-legged squats at speed with up to six times our bodyweight… No wonder runners get knee pain!
So how can we alleviate this problem? Simple. Through strengthening and stretching. Forget the leg extension machine we’ve been told to use to strengthen the knee. The calves, hamstrings, adductors, piriformis, hip flexors and quadriceps all need stretching prior to exercise. A knowledgeable gym instructor should be able to show you these stretches. Try to strengthen the lower leg in a single-leg position (one-legged squats, lunges, step-ups, step-downs and even hops) focusing on the alignment of the knee over the second toe. From a single-leg stance, virtually any upper and lower body strengthening exercise will simultaneously be training functional flexibility, strength and balance.
Contact personal trainer Colin Ayliff, email email@example.com.