Knee pain from running. Exercises that will help the problem?
September 7, 2014 6:35 AM   Subscribe

My knee has started to ache while running, and although the pain isn't excruciating I'm starting to feel it while at rest as well. I'd like to hear some exercises that I could work on while I'm waiting (weeks) to see a sports doc.

I notice while running that I put much more weight on the right leg than the left; my left leg also turns outwards as it goes behind me. I think I'm babying my left leg since I had an ankle injury on that side a few months back. Also, I have a cervical hernia. (I'm falling apart, I know.)

These issues are probably mostly due to bad posture: forward head, slouched upper back, duck feet, weak hips, etc. This is probably due to playing too many video games as a wee lad. I've been working on these issues, but it's been two steps forward, one step back for a while now. At the moment, I'm working on strengthening the upper back musculature, stretching the chest and getting my head above my ears. I really don't want to deal with a knee issue as well.

Quad stretches + hip flexor stretches (particularly the former) tend to incite some pain, especially the day after a run. I need some knee-friendly strengthening exercises/stretches to help the knee out and get me back to running pain-free. Also, I'm trying to implement dynamic pre-workout stretches and post-workout stretches, which I'd appreciate some help with. Any general running form/posture tips are welcome as well. Thanks!
posted by CottonCandyCapers to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
In my case the doc (not sports doc) diagnosed it to my kneecap rubbing against the thigh-bone, and recommended that I'd bulk up on leg muscles.

Started following the Starting Strength program and abandoned running for a year in order to do that instead, but can't tell you if it helped since I wasn't out running a lot… The few times I went out it seemed to hurt less, but again, I only ran occasionally after taking up SS.
posted by monocultured at 6:45 AM on September 7, 2014

One thing that I've found helps with my knee pain is regularly doing squats. In particular, I do my squats in a very slow, controlled manner, with emphasis on making sure there's no side-to-side wobble in my knee/leg as I go up or down. I know when I was in physical therapy for my knees, they said my biggest problem was asymmetrical strength in my quads, such that my patella was pulled to the side when those muscles were engaged.
posted by obfuscation at 7:13 AM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Runner here. Yes, squats will help, but you HAVE TO DO THEM RIGHT.

For this I would advise working even briefly with a sports doc or physical therapist and have them help you find the proper squat form for your body.

I learned that squats with my feet pointing forwards completely wrecked my knees, but having a wider stance, feet pointed out, and ensuring my knees tracked over my feet placement really helped get rid of knee pain.
posted by kinetic at 7:27 AM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

A PT or even a good Pilates trainer can teach you a variety of side leg lift exercises for your side quads, and glute exercises (there's more than just the Maximus - the Medius is also important) - this can strengthen your smaller stabilizing muscles which can encourage your knees not to bend in or out but instead to track straight. Also, have you looked into Chi Running? (Despite the name, it's not woo.)
posted by matildaben at 7:42 AM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

The one thing that helped me with knee pain is doing leg-extensions on a machine like this one. A few years ago, I joined a gym for the sole purpose of using that one type of machine. I went to the gym three times per week for about three months. The pain was substantially improved though not entirely cured. (My "bum knee" started about 25 years ago, when I was running a lot.)

Before I started doing the exercises, I was skeptical that they would help, but lots of different people (including my doctor) advised it, so I tried it. Unfortunately, I stopped going to the gym, and my knee still hurts when I exert myself (as happened a few weeks ago, when I briefly took up jump-roping). If I had more time, money, and self-discipline, I would start going to the gym again, since I think it did help me a lot.
posted by alex1965 at 7:43 AM on September 7, 2014

All you need to do rehab leg extensions at home is a 10 lb adjustable ankle weight. No discipline needed. Once you are comfortably do those then you should be doing stuff like squatting and lunging.

Glute medius is also critical. The exercises here are the clamshell, bridge, and leg lift (this is why I said buy an adjustable ankle weight).

Probably should throw in hamstring work to make sure you are swinging your leg forward correctly.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:52 AM on September 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Yes to the leg extensions and squats, but also it can be super helpful to foam roller your ITB on both legs often and thoroughly.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:20 AM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

How are your shoes? Old and/or poor-fitting sneakers can really eff up your body. If you haven't already, go to one of those geeky running shoe stores that film your feet while you bounce on a treadmill. It's not quackery; promise.
posted by jessca84 at 10:43 AM on September 7, 2014

These exercises helped with my runner's knee. They can be done with or without ankle weights.
posted by lakemarie at 10:45 AM on September 7, 2014 [6 favorites]

I used the rehab exercises for knees that I found here to help deal with knee pain caused from running. Actually, I used their foot/ankle, hip, and shoulder regimens as well. What can I say, I'm kind of a mess, at least as far as my joints are concerned.

YMMV, but I also found using a compression wrap/brace thing to be really helpful, although I was initially really skeptical of the whole thing. It was along the lines of this, although that's not the exact one I use.

Oh, and shoes are important, although they definitely didn't resolve my problems by themselves.

Lastly, I would ease off on the running until the pain subsides. I made the mistake of pushing through, and then had to take off way more time than I would have liked.
posted by litera scripta manet at 12:04 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

A combo does wonders for my knees if I run:
1) foam roller
2) a resistance band (green strength). Do exercises on each side in which you pull away from something fixed (I attach it to a leg of my bed), 30 in each direction. It helps build the muscles around your knees, and even out how the knee is pulled.
3) compression bands on my calves after exercise.

Personally, I hate running. So when I do do it, I always to interval running. My knees seem to like it more as well.
posted by troytroy at 1:30 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've dealt with knee pain from running and soccer. One exercise I've not seen mentioned so far is lunges (forward, back, and sideways). In addition to squats, they have made the most difference to my hip strength and stability.

With both squats and lunges, form is critical, most importantly to not allow the knee to collapse inwards (and not go over the toe). One way to avoid this is (with squats) to put your arms inside your knees as you go down. That will help you get a good sense of how your knees should feel.

You do not need to do either squats or lunges with weights to benefit from them, and you don't need to do them fast (your form is likely to suffer if you do). I'd suggest not thinking about weights until you can do four sets of 20 of each exercise. If that's too easy, try holding it at the bottom of the squat/lunge for a couple of seconds. The other thing you can do is put your hands on your head during the exercise, which makes your legs/hips work a bit harder to balance. By the time you can do all that, I'd be surprised if things weren't significantly better.

The other thing I like about lunges is the stretching that also happens.

Last tip, stand on one leg while brushing your teeth and see how long you can go.
posted by idb at 6:58 AM on September 8, 2014

Late to the party here, but wanted to second what jessica84 said; I screwed up my knee running in cheap shoes and getting a pair of properly fitted ones intended for running made a night and day difference. With the other issues you described a sports doc seems like a good idea too, but yeah, get fitted for good shoes if you don't already have them.
posted by usonian at 1:03 PM on October 24, 2014

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