Tis the season for smashing your resolutions and making new promises to yourself and sticking to them. If you’ve picked up running for the first time, a common complaint are the knees giving pain and aches. But why? Why is it such a common injury area well in this post will investigate further the anatomy of the joint and the motion of running and how it can be affected!
Little bit of anatomy to start- the knee is a hinge joint. This means its key functions are flexion (bending) and extension (straightening). The joint itself is a combination of the meeting of the femur and fibula/tibia, plus cartilage ligament, tendons, the patella and of course muscles.
The knee is a very complicated interconnected joint. Key ligaments in the knee are the ACL, PCL, LCL, MCL as well as the lesser know patellar ligament. These ligaments are strong and are the main structures that hold the knee together. For runners on just the road,these ligaments are less likely to be injured during running as the movement is linear, off road runners usually build great strength in knees as well as ankles while adjusting to the uneven surfaces. HOWEVER, this is not to say it hasn’t happened many ligament injures can happen to anyone from grassroots park runners to elite athletes. It is still an area under intense research.
Muscles surrounding the knee are vast and I won’t bore you with each one, but looking toward the anterior of the knee are the quad muscles (see picture above). Generally speaking, some anterior knee pain can simply be solved, especially for beginners, just simply by stretching the quadriceps muscles more. Your muscle that attaches to your patella (Rectus Femoris) can tighten an cause an increased pull and tension on the capsule and so cause anterior knee pain.
Cartilage has a huge part to play in knees pain as cartilage helps to act as a shock absorber. When we run we apply up to 4 times our body weight through our feet. Mr Einstein once stated every force has an equal and opposite reaction. So, the ground returns force to us when we run. If our muscles/ligaments aren’t strong enough to cope then they end up causing us issue.
Lastly I’ll focus on a tendon every runner will know the Iliotibial Band or ITB as its more commonly known. Now this band runs from the lateral side of your hip down the side of the leg and inserts towards the front of the knee cap. Therefore the strength/weakened sea in the hip can have a massive affect on the knee alone with the muscles in this area also. The hip is a ball and socket joint and therefore has huge range of motion form flexion to extension, abduction to addiction as well as circumduction. When running it is common for us to see knees shifting inward (medially- a valgus) or outward (laterally- a varus) this can all come from issues to do with the hips in terms of strength/weaknesses and/or tightness!
To summarise: knees are complicated!! If you have an injury head to the doctor or Physio to check the issue. But a few pointers:
– When was the last time you changed your shoes? If the cushioning is gone that could be why the knees hurt!
– Have you dramatically upped your mileage or started running further than before? These aches and pains could be your body’s way of slowly adapting to new distances.
– Make sure your in the right support level of shoe for you! Being in a shoe to supportive for your foot could certainly be making your knee pain occur, so get a gait analysis and check that too!
-Lastly Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation!
Sorry it was a long post but I tried to cover as much as I thought was relevant 😊 any questions get in touch!