With the current pandemic limiting everything from the way we work to the way we grocery shop, it has become increasingly difficult for many people to find ways to exercise. Gyms closures and social distancing have made things even more difficult. As a result, some of us have turned to outdoor based activities in order to continue to pursue our health and fitness goals, and the arrival of spring has certainly not made the idea of exercising outdoors any less appealing.
The health benefits associated with running are well documented. Unfortunately, the stress placed on a runner’s knees has also allowed us to document one of the highest overuse injury rates in recreational sports. Anterior knee pain or patellofemoral pain syndrome, affects as many as 2.5 million Americans per year and accounts for up to 40% of all knee problems seen in sports medicine clinics across the country.
The injury occurs when compressive and shear forces between the kneecap (patella) and the thigh bone (femur) exceed the tolerance of the joint tissue and the joint becomes painful and irritated. Pain can be mild and little more than an annoyance or it can be severe and limit everyday functionality. The pain associated with this injury usually presents directly in the front of the knee around the kneecap. There is typically not any swelling associated with the injury and most cases can be managed quite successfully with activity modification and some structured exercise.
If you are one of those that have recently taken up running there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from developing this type of injury.
- Don’t “jump in with both feet”. Running every day subjects your knees to the repetitive stress that can result in injury. Try alternating days of running with days of biking, swimming or walking to lower stress to your knees. At least initially alternate your running days with days of a different activity such as biking or swimming to further limit the number of hard hits to your knees.
- If you are a not a seasoned runner, start with short stints of jogging mixed with short stints of walking. For example, your early running workouts might consist of 2 minutes of running followed by 2 minutes of walking. If repeated 5 times your total workout time would be 20 minutes but with only half of that subjecting your knees to the higher impact forces of running. Over time continue to increase the running times and decrease the walking times until you are running for 20 minutes straight!
- In the long run, stretching tight tissue such as your hamstrings and Iliotibial band can reduce some load on your kneecap and potentially lower your risk of developing these symptoms.
- Strengthening the muscles of your core, hip and leg can significantly improve your knee’s tolerance to the pounding it takes during running by helping to improve force distribution patterns within your knee.
If you have been experiencing symptoms that seems consistent with what we have outlined here, feel free to give us a call. It’s likely we can have you back out running in no time! Please contact us today at Plymouth Bay Orthopedic Associates in Plymouth, MA to book an appointment.