With this new era of isolation and advice to exercise every day, many of us have taken up running or increased the amount we already do and walking more frequently.
Although there are fantastic benefits from running and walking, your knees are at risk!
There are 2 common knee problems that you are more prone to if you are walking or running more than usual.
1.Meniscal (cartilage) problem
A meniscal tear is a common knee injury which can be very painful and debilitating, preventing you from running and walking.
The menisci (often called ‘the cartilage’) are kidney shaped shock absorbers between the femur and tibia which cushion the bone ends. Meniscal problems with running are more common as we get older due to the reduced shock absorption as the meniscus thins with age. The meniscus is also at risk is when twisting whilst taking weight through the knee, for example if suddenly changing direction when running.
Meniscal problems are likely to occur in the 45+ age group as the meniscus thins with age.
The symptoms of a meniscal tear include:
• Pain – more often felt on the inside of your knee
• Loss of movement – bending and straightening the knee.
Self-help advice if your knee is painful and swollen:
• Rest the knee from impact activities such as running
• Ice your knee for 15 minutes 2-3 times a day
• Keep it moving by regularly bending and straightening the knee
• Avoid deep squat activities or kneeling.
The following link shows some basic exercises relevant for a painful, swollen knee… https://www.csp.org.uk/public-patient/rehabilitation-exercises/knee-pain
Recovery can take 4-6 weeks but during this time, as the knee starts to improve, start stretching exercises to increase your movement, strengthening exercises to increase
stability (see below) and balance exercises, all to prepare you for running again. To maintain your fitness, you could try some non/low impact exercise such as cycling.
Whatever you do, don’t rush back to running until your swelling has gone and the knee pain significantly reduced.
2. Anterior knee pain (AKP)
During this time of increase in walking and running, we are prone to irritation and pain behind the knee cap (patella).
The main symptoms of AKP are:
• Severe sharp pain felt under or around the knee cap
• Pain worse with activities such as walking downstairs, squatting, pushing the clutch pedal down, and sitting for long periods with the knee in a flexed position, such as at a desk.
One of the main causes is poor alignment of the leg when walking or running. As the foot is planted on the floor, if the knee falls inwards as you take weight on the leg. This causes an increased force through the knee cap. Your body copes with this for many years but is at higher risk of causing pain when you alter your activity levels, as many of us are doing during this time of isolation. It is often weakness of the muscles around your outer pelvis known as Gluteus Medius.
Self-help advice for AKP:
• Apply ice over the knee cap if the pain is severe
• Avoid activities which cause the pain
• If coming downstairs is painful, only descend one stair at a time
• Commence strengthening exercises for the Gluteus Medius (see below)
To improve the alignment of your knee over your foot when walking and running, and for general improvement in your strength, we have produced some videos of exercises you can perform at home. They are appropriate for most knee problems and should be continued as part of your pre-run warm up to prevent a reoccurrence of your knee pain. Follow the link below: