I have gotten a lot of emails and comments about pain in the knee and what to do about it. I have experienced knee pain, and know first hand the pain that comes along with it.
The most common form of knee pain is iliotibial band syndrome- which is an inflammation of the IT band caused by rubbing against the bone. Commonly known as ITBS, it is one of the most common overuse injuries among runners. It can also be caused due to improper running shoes. Read my post about SHOES to help you understand the importance of a great pair of running shoes!
The IT band is a ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin. The IT band attaches to the knee and helps to stabilize and move the knee joint.
Often times people think they have knee problems, due to the pain being located near the knee. If you are suffering from ITBS you will have pain on the outside of your knee.
-Weak IT band
-Worn out or unsupportive shoes (that was the case with me)
-Increasing milage too soon
-Running on a track in the same direction repeatedly
-Running on uneven surfaces (even minor dips in the road can affect your IT band)
-Do a dynamic warm-up before running
-Have the proper type of shoes for your feet, and make sure they aren’t worn out
-Strengthen your IT band
-Avoid running on banked surfaces
-The moment you feel any pain, stop running and ice
-Do not run on a track in the same direction repeatedly
Strengthening your IT band is one of the best ways to prevent future pain. These workouts can be done at home, and require very little equipment. I use an elastic band that I purchased from Target (around $4). The following strengthening exercises should be done 2-3 times per week, and done in sets of 2-3 each time.
- Lateral Leg Raises: lie on your right side with an elastic band around your ankles. Lift your left leg to about 45 degrees in a controlled manner, then lower. Do 20-30 reps per side.
- Clam Shells: lie on your right side with your knees together and an elastic around your lower thighs. Your thighs should be about 45 degrees from your body and your knees bent at 90 degrees. Open your legs like a clam shell but don’t move your pelvis – the motion should not rock your torso or pelvic girdle. Keep it slow and controlled. Do 20-30 reps on each leg.
- Hip Thrusts: lie on your back with your weight on your upper back your feet. Your legs will be bent at the knee. Lift one leg so your weight is all on one leg and your back. Lower your butt almost to the ground and thrust upward by activating your glutes. This exercise is great for glute strength and hip stability. Do 20-30 reps on each leg.
- Side-Steps / Shuffle: with an elastic band around your ankles and knees slightly bent, take ten steps laterally. The band should be tight enough so it provides constant resistance during all steps. Still facing the same direction, take another 10 steps back to your starting position. That is one set. Do 3-5 sets. This exercise will look like a slow-motion version of a basketball “defense” drill.
- Pistol Squats: These are simply one-legged squats. The key to a successful pistol squat is to not lean forward, keep the motion slow and controlled, and make sure your knee does not collapse inward. Do 3-10 squats based on your ability.
- Hip Hikes: Stand on your right foot. With your pelvis in a neutral position, drop the left side so it is several inches below the right side of your pelvic bone. Activate your right hip muscle and lift your left side back to its neutral position. Do 20-30 reps per side.
- Iron Cross: This dynamic stretch will help you feel loose after the previous strength exercises. Lie on your back with your arms out to your sides and swing your right leg over your torso and up to your left hand. Repeat with your left leg and do 20 reps in total.