News flash, runners: You’re putting a lot of strain on your knees.
As many as half of the injuries associated with running, particularly in lower extremities, occur in the knee, according to research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Indeed, patellofemoral pain syndrome — more commonly known as “runner’s knee” — is commonly cited by the National Institutes of Health as the most common running injury.
If you’ve ever experienced dull pain and tenderness behind your kneecap as a result of running, you might be familiar with this malady. Anything that strains the knees, like running downhill or squatting, tends to exacerbate the discomfort. This can occur when the patella rubs against the femoral groove or there is reduced cartilage in the knee.
In terms of potential causes, hip weakness and instability is the most common problem we see in our patients with runner’s knee. It’s well worth your time if you’re struggling with this issue: just three weeks of hip-strengthening work has been shown to make a difference when it comes to reducing pain associated with runner’s knee, according to the Journal of Athletic Health.
Whether you suspect you harbor some of the risk factors for developing runner’s knee and you’re looking to make a pre-emptive strike, or you’re already feeling the effects of this injury, get started with the hip strengthening exercises below. They can reduce your likelihood of injury and improve performance! Perform several of these simple exercises 2-3 times per week. While these are similar to what many clinicians recommend to address these types of issues, if you need more guidance, it’s worth making an appointment with a physical therapist who can specially design a program for you.
Hip Strengthening Exercises
Side Leg Lifts
Lie on your right side with your legs straight and stacked on top of each other. You can rest your head on top of your right arm and put your left hand on your hip, or on the ground to help balance your body. Lift the top leg straight up as far as is comfortable and lower back down. Repeat 10 times, and switch sides.
Lie on the ground on your back with your arms at your sides, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your backside off the ground until you form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Push your heels into the ground, and feel your glutes stabilizing your body. Hold for two seconds, lower your body back down and repeat 10 times.
Lie on your right side with your knees bent on top of each other and your right arm under your head to support it. Keeping your feet together, open the clamshell by lifting your top knee up. While your hips will rotate during this exercise, your pelvis and core should remain stable. Close the clamshell, repeat 15 times and switch sides.
While on all fours, raise your right hand and left knee off the ground. Extend your right arm out in front of your body and your left leg out behind your body. Hold for 2 seconds before bringing your right hand and left knee together under your body. Repeat the motion 10–15 times, and switch sides.
Single Leg Deadlift
If you haven’t done these before, start without weights and hold a chair back for balance. Standing on one leg, bend forward at your hip and lift the opposite leg in the air. You should feel like a “dipping bird” without letting your back round at the bottom of the movement. Come back up and repeat. 3 sets of 10 on each leg