Easy Exercises for Runner’s Knees

I’ve been jogging almost every day for the past 2 years until now I’ve through a situation where my knee throbbed of pain after an hour of running . The pain started the day after and I thought to myself it was just muscle soreness– it didn’t go away for a week. Through self-assessment, I realized that the muscles of my hip and knee are relatively weak which led me to have what we call Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS)— A major concern especially for marathon athletes, track and field players or even just regular runners you see every morning. My knee pain did not permit me to run for about 2 weeks– but with a few exercise and stretching sessions, together with proper hip postures while running I was able to overcome this annoying syndrome.

According to R. Miller a Physiotherapist, ITBS is the most common cause of lateral knee pain in individuals who regularly jog, bike, or walk for exercise. People who have postural problems in their legs such as anterior pelvic tilt and genu recurvatum may also experience ITB.

Iliotibial Band AKA Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL)

Your TFL starts from the top-front of your pelvis or hip bone and attaches to the left side end of your knee. Its function is to rotate your whole leg inwards (pointing your toes inward) and lifting your leg sideways. Your TFL in coordination with your Gluteus Maximus (buttocks) assist in providing stability to your knee joint especially in walking and running. In ITBS your TFL undergoes frictional stress at your knee joint due to the repetitive movement of running or walking. The pain is usually felt at the outer side of your knee where the muscle attaches.

Causes of ITBS

1. Hip Muscle Weakness

To assist your TFL muscle in its job in protecting your knee, you will need to have good strength of your hip musculature. Weakness in your Quads, Hamstrings, and buttocks may lead to your TFL overcompensating upon running which leads to knee pain.

2. Tightness

It is important for every athlete or regular runner to have a solid stretching program before and after running. Inefficientmuscle contraction due to poor flexibility ultimately leads to ITBS.

3. Overuse

Learn the value of rest. Your body, just like a machine has complicated parts with complicated functions. Too much use of a specific muscle coupled with lack of conditioning and flexibility will lead to ITBS.

4. Poor Lower Quadrant Posture

ITBS is common in people with an anterior pelvic tilt posture. This is best displayed in people who have a prominent lordotic curve in their lumbar spine. Try asking advice from your Physical therapist or Personal trainer to help correct your pelvic posture. The diagram below shows the features of anterior pelvic tilt posture and how can it affect a person’s height.


Image By: Wikepedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelvic_tilt

Latest Evidence of the Best Exercises for ITBS

According to a study conducted by the JOSPT, it is important to strengthen your hip musculature excluding your TFL to prevent ITBS from recurring. The following exercises are easy to perform and may be included as a supplement to your exercise regime.

1. Clam Exercises


Image by: Jaime Maguire, Openfit

Clam Exercises strengthen your Hip musculature excluding your TFL. Lie on your side with knees and hips bent and both knees together. Raise your topmost knee above towards the ceiling and hold for 6-10 seconds. This may be progressed by applying resistance bands around both knees or placing ankle weights on the top most knee. Perform on both sides.

2. Standing TFL Stretch


Image by: www.backfixer1.com

Stand near the wall and place the leg closest to the wall behind your other leg. “Drop your hip” towards the wall and hold for 15-30 seconds– repeat 2-3 times. It is important to maintain flexibility on your TFL while strengthening other supporting structures.

3. Resisted Side Stepping


Image By: MOSAIC Physical Therapy

With a resistance band placed on both knees or ankles, take a side step as far as you can and hold the position for 6-10 seconds. Bring the other foot together and repeat for 10-15 reps. Your knees can either be slightly bent or straight. This exercise makes less use of your TFL while strengthening other hip abductor muscles. Visit MOSAIC Physical Therapy for more lower extremity exercises.

4. Unilateral Bridging


Image By: PhysioPedia

Very effective exercise for your hip extensors which contribute to the overall stability of your lower extremity. If you are unable to perform the Unilateral bridge, try starting with the basic bridging exercise with both feet flat on the floor. Progress by adding ankle weights on your lower abdomen and extended leg.

REFERENCES:

Miller RH, Lowry JL, Meardon SA, et al. Lower extremity mechanics of ilitibial band syndrome during an exhaustive run. Gait Posture 2007;26(3) 407-413


Berry JW, Lee TS, Foley HD, Lewis CL. Resisted Side Stepping: The Effect of Posture on Hip Abductor Muscle Activation. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2015;45(9):675-82.