As the New Year kicks off, many of us set new fitness goals, which often include running. However, without proper preparation and a careful buildup, running can put a lot of strain on our knees and lead to aches, pain and even injury. Knee injuries are common among runners which can lead more into chronic pain with injuries such as runners or jumpers knee. In this blog, we'll take a closer look at these two conditions and explore how to prevent them, as well as how osteopathic practice can help in treating and managing knee pain.
Understanding PFPS and Patella Tendinopathy
The patellofemoral joint space is the area in which the patella connects to our femur and lower leg bones in a space underneath the kneecap. This space can become irritated when the usual glide of the patella is disrupted due to imbalances and tension in surrounding areas which leads to the condition known as patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). PFPS can lead to pain, swelling, and a misalignment of the joint, causing discomfort when walking or climbing stairs. PFPS is a common injury among runners and can result from a spike in volume or intensity of training, running on uneven surfaces, or wearing shoes that don't fit properly.
Patella tendinopathy, on the other hand, is an injury to the tendon that connects the quadriceps muscle to the shin bone. A usual presentation of patella tendinopathy occurs from overuse of the area and is commonly seen in jumping sports and long-distance runners due to the high-impact forces placed on the front of the knee. Patella tendinopathy is characterised by pain and tenderness over the top of the shin, and the pain is usually felt when walking downhill.
Preventing Knee Injuries
Here are a few tips to help prevent knee injuries while running:
- Gradual return to exercise: Start your exercise program slowly and don't overload yourself. Gradually increasing the intensity and duration of your workout can help prevent stress-related injuries like PFPS and patella tendinopathy.
- Consistent training volumes and intensities: By having a consistent training load we reduce the risk of overuse and acute injuries by allowing better healing times for our tissues after exercise. Our tendons hate sudden changes to exercise loads and without allowing time for rest after exercise we can see a larger injuries taking place.
- Strengthening exercises: Strengthening the muscles in our legs such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, calfs and glutes can help reduce the risk of knee injuries. Simple bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, and leg extensions can help build strength in the muscles that support the knee.
- Running technique matters: Running technique is very important for reducing the risk of injury. Correct running form not only reduces the load and stress placed through our knees and hips but will also improve the efficiency of your running and will improve your ability to run further or faster. Some helpful tips include;
- Running light on your feet
- Pushing off through your hips rather than your smaller calf muscles
- Having a faster stride cadence, Aiming for 160 steps per minute or higher
- Contact the ground underneath your body rather than out in front of yourself
- Proper warm-up: Warming up before exercising is crucial to avoiding injuries in the short and long term. A proper warm-up can help prepare your muscles and joints for the physical demands of running. A good warmup can include simple things such as a quick turn on the foam roller followed by some dynamic movements such as skipping, leg swings, arabesques and some light jogging before you begin your run.
- Proper footwear: Wearing the right shoes can help cushion the impact of running and reduce the risk of knee injuries. Make sure to wear shoes that fit properly and provide the right level of support for your feet and ankles.
Treating Knee Pain with Osteopathy
If you're already experiencing knee pain or looking to stay clear from a stint on the sidelines, osteopathy may be able to help. Osteopaths are well equipped with techniques that can help reduce pain and increase strength in the affected area, including:
- Soft tissue techniques: Soft tissue techniques applied to the surrounding muscles like the quadriceps, hip flexors, and adductors can relieve tension and reduce pain in the knee.
- Exercise prescription: An osteopath can prescribe exercises to help strengthen both the patella tendon and the muscles around the knee. This not only has strength benefits but can also provide pain relief and help prevent future injuries.
- Rehabiliation classes: Rehabilitation classes can be a good way to build strength to the surrounding area and also through other important areas such as your core and hips. Reformer classes are a great way to focus on strength and mobility which can help strengthened the injured area and also helps in the prevention of future injuries in the long term.
- Dry needling: Dry needling is a form of symptom relief that can restore muscle function and reduce tension in the muscle fibres, reducing strain on the patella.
- Cupping therapy: Myofascial cupping can be used to reduce muscle tension and relieve muscular pain. Cupping may be used to treat the lower limb where tension may have built up which will reduce the stress being placed through the knee.
Whether you're just starting out with running or returning to it after a break, following these tips will help you stay pain-free and keep running for years to come.
Take care of your knees now and they will take care of you in the future. If you are interested in Osteopathy or our small group rehabilitation classes contact our team of osteopaths and learn how we can assist you in preventing and treating your knee injuries, allowing you to enjoy running and other physical activities without pain.