If you're a runner and you haven't dealt with any knee pain, that's impressive. Because unfortunately, knee-related injuries are extremely common, accounting for 42% of all running injuries. That's a startling statistic, so doing everything in your power to prevent knee pain before it becomes debilitating is important.
Here are some of the reasons why your knees might be bugging you, and possible solutions for getting them back on track. That being said, if you're dealing with knee pain—or any other kind of pain, for that matter—always consult a doctor.
1. You have a history of running injuries.
Having a previous running injury is one of the strongest predictors of suffering a future one. If you have a history of knee problems, being extra careful and making changes to your current running program could make all the difference.
2. Your trunk is too upright.
Running with an upright trunk increases knee loading, or patellofemoral joint stress. Try moving your trunk slightly forward when running and see if it lessens knee pain.
3. The distance you're running is too far.
The greater the distance you run, the greater your risk of injury. If you are experiencing knee pain, try cutting back on your mileage. You may see a huge difference!
4. Your hip abductors need strengthening.
If your hip abductors (the muscles along the sides of your hips) are weak, this contributes to inward movement of your knee when running, causing pain. If you suspect this is the case, consider strengthening exercises including side steps using a TheraBand, bridges, hip extensions, and clams.
5. You have weak hip extensors.
If your hip extensors are weak, this causes your knee extensors to become overworked. This increases knee loading and pain. To increase hip-extensor strength, hip extensions, bridges, clams, and side steps, using a TheraBand are all good options.
6. Your balance is a little off.
If your balance is poor, this decreases your ability to respond to perturbations and landing forces when running, which increases knee pain. Inability to stand on one foot without wobbling is a hint that your balance needs work. To improve your balance, practice standing on one foot—even if it's just for a minute or two while you're brushing your teeth. Once you master that, try to do the same thing with your eyes closed.
7. You run too fast.
When people run too fast, their pelvises tend to drop due to inability of the hip abductors to provide pelvic stability. When your pelvis drops, this promotes knee pain—and contributes to lower back pain. Slow down!
8. You land on your heels.
Landing with a rearfoot strike (as opposed to forefoot strike) has been linked to higher knee loading, or patellofemoral joint stress. Transitioning from a heel strike to forefoot foot strike may help take a load off your knees.
9. You use a large step length.
Running with a large step length increases knee loading. So if you're dealing with pain, try decreasing your step length when running. It may help!
While it's great if these tips help lessen your pain, always make sure to consult a professional, especially if your pain persists.
Want more running tips? Find out how to do a running meditation, and read up on why these famous runners lace up their sneakers every day.