Do you get knee pain from running? This post will show you how to get rid of it with five quick rehab drills your legs will love.
Did you ever have to end a run early and walk home?
I once had the exquisite experience of insane calf cramps towards the end of a 2-hour run.† I walked the remaining two miles with both calves right on the brink of another cramp and a smile on my face.
Why get upset about some silly cramps?
Years later, I didn’t feel like smiling when I had knee pain during a run. The invisible scalpel stuck in the side of my knee was telling me in unmistakable language that I’m not as injury-proof as I thought.
Maybe you have similar stories to tell.
The good news is that with the following exercises you can insure yourself against running injuries and help your knees heal by working on several biomechanical problems that can cause knee pain when running.
Let’s get started with exercise #1.
Exercise #1: Self-Massage for Runners
A massage will take tension off your knee by relaxing your leg muscles. With self-massage, you can get those benefits at home and all you need is a foam-roller. We’ll get to what you can do if you don’t have one in a moment.
Here are the muscles you will work on.
Begin by massaging the muscle on the outside of your left hip, the tensor fascia late. You’ll find it between the two bony bumps on the side of your hip. Move the roller back and forth in short strokes until the tension melts away.
Next up, massage the piriformis deep inside your hip by sitting on the foam-roller with the left ankle place on your right knee. Lean to the right. Hunt for tension deep inside your hip by rolling those muscles.
Don’t forget to repeat the massage for the other side. Once you’ve done that, move on to massaging your hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscles. Finally, be sure to roll the adductors on the inside of your thigh.
Tension or muscle adhesions in any of these muscles will alter your gait mechanics and can contribute to knee pain when running. That’s why thorough self-massage often leads to an instant reduction of pain.
Do This If You Don’t Have a Foam-Roller
Grab a broomstick or another round stick. I’ve had people use a rolling pin and I like to use a piece of a curtain pole.
Take the stick and use it to roll your quads as if you’re rolling out dough. Be sure to relax the leg you’re standing on by shifting your weight to the other foot. Dig in deep and be sure to massage the whole length of your quad muscles from the front, from the inside, and from the outside.
Next, use the stick to massage the muscle on the side of your hip, between the two bony bumps you can feel there.
Your legs will already feel a lot better now.
Exercises #2 – #4: Strengthen your legs and unload the knee
When you’re running, your leg alignment will determine how force is distributed among your muscles and joints. Bad alignment will overload certain structures in your knee, which eventually causes pain. Here’s how you can prevent that by strengthening your hip.
The following three exercises will work different hip muscles, all of which play an important role in keeping your knees healthy. After a few sessions, your legs will feel stronger in a way that you probably haven’t experienced before.
Hip Abductions Exercise
Lie on your side with your body in a straight line. Keep your legs straight and lift the top leg up by leading with the heel.
You should feel the movement in your hip and not in your thigh.
Lie on your side with your legs in front of you and your knees slightly bent. Place some padding under your hip if you’re on a hard surface.
Rotate the upper leg up by just using your hip muscles. Keep your upper body completely still.
Glute Bridge Exercise
Lie down on your back and pull your feet towards your hips until your middle fingers can touch your heels. Next, put one leg up in the air and push through the other legís heel until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
Be sure to keep your hip parallel to the ground.
Do 15 to 20 repetitions of per side of each of these three exercises.
Exercise #5: The Couch Stretch
Tightness in the front of the hip is common among endurance runners because the sport emphasizes hip flexion.
With the couch stretch, you can balance the demands running has placed on your body by putting your hip into extension and stretching out the front of the hip, as well as the quadriceps muscles.
This will help you remove excess tension from your knee. Here’s what it looks like.
Place your knee all the way into the back corner of the couch and leave no space between your shin and the backrest. Once you straighten up your torso, you will feel the stretch in your thigh and the front of your hip.
In the beginning, I recommend you do this exercise with a stick behind your back to help with good technique. The stick touches your tailbone, upper back, and head, while the space between the stick and your lower back should only be big enough to slide in your fingers.
Hold the stretch for two minutes per side. The couch stretch is very intense the first time you try it, so be sure to exhale deeply as you do it to help your body relax. Don’t hold your breath.
Your Next Steps
Here’s a short routine you can do as a cool-down after your next run.
- 5 Minutes of leg self-massage with a foam-roller or a stick
- For each side, do 20 hip abductions, clamshells, and glute bridges
- Relax into the couch stretch for 2 minutes per leg
Done daily, these exercises can also help you get rid of knee pain from running once your doctor has cleared you to use them.
Your legs will love this type of training because it gives overused muscles a break and strengthens supporting muscles to do more work. After a week of daily practice, your running will better as well, although in a way that’s hard to put into words.
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To learn more about you can get rid of running injuries through exercise, check out this article.
Martin Koban is an author and independent researcher. He writes about how to recover from chronic knee pain through exercise on his website Fix-knee-pain.com for over 50,000 monthly readers.