Got this question sent to me yesterday by a “confused” reader of my newspaper articles suffering with knee pain… “Hey Jennifer, I’ve been suffering with a pain in my right knee now for a few weeks. What I can’t put my finger on is what I did to make it start in the first place, and even more confusing is that it’s most painful when walking down the stairs, and only comes on 10 minutes into a run. Sometimes it aches, sometimes it feels tender and dull, but I don’t understand why I could run fine before and now I can’t without having to stop after 10 minutes. Can you help?” – Mary, 46, Lacey.
Why Is This Time Of Year Different?
There’s a good chance that the same thing is happening to Mary as it does to most people this time of year… This time of year we see more people than ever at Penrose Physical Therapy with painful knees. The reason why? Because it’s around this time of year that people decide to be more active and take things up like running and walking for longer distances, making the most of the nice weather and generally being more active. And even if they’re used to running, people tend to step it up and run a little longer than usual to get ready for upcoming races, sometimes adding in extra running days going from twice a week, to four times a week.
What’s likely going on with Mary is something called “runner’s knee” – it got it’s nickname from an obvious and very unfortunate reason: because it’s common among runners, and even those who are brand new to running. If we run often, after a while the stress of running can cause irritation around the knee area. The resulting pain can be sharp and sudden, or irritating and dull. Sometimes it disappears when you’re running, only to return again afterwards. The pain will generally feel worse when bending the knee, especially when walking or running downhill, or even something as simple as walking down a flight of stairs! So why is Mary feeling pain in her knees?
Here’s An Example
Think of it like this – each time you run and bend your knee, your knee cap rubs against your thigh bone, and just like if you were to rub your hand against your arm, eventually your arm would go red and become sore after a while… Well the same happens with your knees. If you’re not used to running, OR, if you haven’t slowly built up how long you rung for and how many times a week you choose to as well, then this is going to be a shock to your knees. Another thing, if the muscles around your knees are weak and tight, they’re not going to be able to support you through a run. And without strong muscles to support your knee joints, (or just really tired and weak ones), you’re much more likely to suffer from aches and pains.
What Can Mary Do?
So, the answer to Mary’s problem? It’s likely to be a simple case of strengthening the knee muscles (and hip and lower back ones too), to make them stronger and support Mary when she runs – not MORE of the same exercise. See, a lot of people think that exercising more is good for them, and it is to an extent, but only if you’re doing the right type of exercises to benefit everything else you’re doing.
Doing the right type of exercises and stretches to strengthen the right muscles will mean your knees will be strong enough to walk and run for longer, with less pain at the end of the day. You’ve got to build a strong foundation first before doing more and to prevent any aches and pains suddenly creeping up on you which could put you out for a few weeks. I’ll be back again next week, but until then, have a great week and stay healthy!
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