Anyone with knee pain knows that physical fitness is priority number one for more people than ever these days, and even for people who don’t pursue it ahead of everything else it’s still pretty up there as far as priorities go. This mindset has influenced many people’s decision-making processes of late, having them realign aspects of their life such as their schedules and plans in order to fit in some workout time, or perhaps reorganize their diets around a much healthier allocation of contents and calories. It’s not easy, especially when the more sedentary or even hedonistic lifestyle is more popular for obvious reasons, but you have to admire people for sticking it out.
Of course, this only goes as far as our bodies can healthily take us. Things can go south in a hurry, and when we get hurt one way or another, our bodies and common routines can sometimes pay the price. It’s hard to go jogging, for instance, when our knees are giving us trouble. And there are quite a few ways that this trouble can come up, too – whether it’s from a straight-up injury or due to overuse, the body’s otherwise excellently-engineered joint systems can get sidelined enough to impede a lot of their ordinary functionality.
A lot of the injuries leading to knee pain tend to come about as a result of ramping up the intensity of a workout too suddenly, or demanding too much of the knee overall. This can take the form of inflammation under the kneecap because of problems with the kneecap and the bony indentation it settles into, or even IT band issues that also cause knee pain. The latter sometimes turns into iliotibial band syndrome, which affects the thick band of tissue running the distance from your hip to your knee; IT band syndrome can result in enough pain to sideline your running pursuits. The former, though, is also called runner’s knee and can also be quite troublesome. How can joggers and runners work proactively to keep this from becoming a big problem, then?
There are quite a few easy exercises known to prevent knee pain, mostly by strengthening the muscle groups around the knee and improving their flexibility. While some of these might be new, consider these well as options that might be wise in the long run as far as preventing future knee pain goes.
Working on these powerful and versatile muscles is a crucial step toward keeping the likelihood of future runner’s knee down. Strengthen your quads by stretching them out a bit.
The Wall Sit – stand with your back just resting against a wall. Your feet should be hip-width apart, two feet in front of you. Bend your knees to slide your back down the wall until your knees form 90-degree angles, with the knees right above the ankles. Keep your thighs parallel. Hold this pose for 30-60 seconds then straighten up, and do 3 reps.
Knees can be dealt quite a bit of stress if the quads and hamstrings aren’t doing their part well enough. Strengthen your hamstrings in a method similar to the quads.
Tip-over Tuck – stand with feet hip-distance apart. Interlace the fingers of your hands, holding them behind your back. Then, keeping your legs straight, bend forward at the hips, tucking in your chin and raising your arms above your head. You can keep the back of your neck relaxed. If the stretch is a bit too intense at first, you can recalibrate by putting your hands on the back of your thighs and softening your knees a bit. Hold for 30 seconds and then stand.
Hams, quads, calves – all are connected to the functionality of the knee, and so strengthening them can allow the knee to be given a lot less stress. Keep your calves stretched and loose.
Calf stretch – Standing less than a full arm’s distance from the wall, place your left leg forward and place your right leg back. Keep both feet parallel. Bending your forward knee, press through your rear heel. Hold this for up to 30 seconds, then switch legs.
Your glutes can end up pulling on your IT band, which can lead to IT band problems.
Glute Foam Roll – this is best done with the eponymous foam roller. Lying down on your back, lift your legs and place the foam under your pelvis, at the sacrum. Hold on to the ends of the roller to keep it in place, and then slowly twist your lower body from the left to the right, in order to knead your glutes into the foam roller and give them a massage. Continue thi for up to a minute. Direct pressure will help you release knotted tension, so don’t be shy about sdjusting the positioning until you find the sweet spot.
You might be a bit surprised to find out that these side muscles can actually be quite instrumental in helping maintain efficiency in the motion of the other muscles, thus reducing knee pain..
Side Stretch – starting with feet directly under hips, move your right foot out to your side and come down into a lunge to place your left fingers on your right foot. Make sure to keep your knee and toes vertically aligned; the knee shouldn’t be past the toes. Keep your chest lifted despite the bend, and put your weight in your heels. This centers the stretching on the relevant muscles. Push from the right foot to return to standing, then do the other side. This is one rep.
6. IT Band
The IT band itself can be worked on a bit to prevent future problems.
IT band foam roll – lie on your side in a manner similar to a side plank. Put the foam roller just below your hip. Put your top arm on your top hip, and brace for stability with your top leg. Roll the foam roller along the length of your thigh, stopping just above the knee. Don’t roll on the knee joint itself, and keep the lower leg lifted (don’t pin down the roller with it).
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