9 Exceptional Exercises to Treat Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee is a broad term characterised by a pain directly behind or surrounding the kneecap. Although there are many factors that may lead to this condition, a weakness or tightness in hip and thigh muscles is well known as a direct cause of Runner’s Knee.

Why does muscle weakness cause Runner’s Knee?

The patella is kept in its trochlear groove by the quadriceps (thigh) muscle and tendon when the knee bends and straightens. Therefore, if you suffer from weak or tight muscles in this area, it can result in poor tracking of the patella within the groove. On the other hand, weak hip muscles can also cause the femur (thigh bone) to rotate inward, which can cause the patella to hit the edge of the femoral groove. - thereby causing pain in the knee area.

“But by building these muscles you can keep the femur from rotating inward during the weight-bearing phase of your running gait,” says William Roberts, M.D.

One study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine investigated the changes in hip strength, core endurance and lower extremity biomechanics, in women over an 8-week period. Nineteen women participated in a program aimed at strengthening hip and core muscles, as well as improving dynamic misalignment.

The results showed significant improvements in pain, functional ability, lateral core endurance, hip abduction, and hip external rotation strength - as well as a significant reduction in knee abduction movement during running.

Best Exercises for Runner’s Knee

By regularly performing specific strength exercises, focusing on the knee, hips and quadriceps, you can greatly improve the movement of the femur through the gair cycle. This will improve mobility by keeping your knee stable while running, as well as improve leg flexibility and reduce tightness in the quadriceps and hips.

Let’s have a look at a few exercises for Runner’s Knee, aimed at reducing pain and strengthening the muscles involved in acceptable knee mobility.

1. Straight Leg Lift

What does this exercise work: quadriceps and hip flexors

How to do it: Lie on your back with both legs straight in front of you. Keeping your leg straight and knee locked, slowly lift your right leg of the floor until it is perpendicular to the floor. Hold that position for 3 seconds and then slowly lower your leg back down to the floor. Repeat 15 times for each leg.

2. Side Leg Lift

What does this exercise work: glutes and hip flexors

How to do it: Lie on your left side so that your body is in a straight line. Keep both legs straight, knee locked - then slowly lift your right leg as high as you can. Hold the position for 3 seconds and then slowly lower your leg back down to your left leg. Repeat 15 times on each leg.

3. Clamshells

What does this exercise work: glutes and hip flexors

How to do it: Lie on your left side with legs slightly bent at a 45 degree angle. Slowly lift your right knee - still keeping your feet together. Pause in the “open clamshell” position, then slowly close your legs again by lowering your knee back to touch your left knee. Repeat 15 times.

4. Glute Bridges

What does this exercise work: glutes and hips

How to do it: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keeping your knees bent and hip-distance apart, slowly raise your hips to the ceiling. Remember to keep your back straight, squeezing your glutes as you lift your hips as high as you can. Hold the position for 10 seconds, then lower your hips back down to the floor. Repeat 15 times.

5. Fire Hydrants

What does this exercise work: outer glutes, core and hips

How to do it: Start on all fours, with your knees on the floor. Keep your knees directly under your hips and your hands directly under your shoulders. With your right knee at a 90 degree angle, slowly lift it out to the side and up to the ceiling. Hold that position for 10 seconds, then lower your knee back to the floor. Repeat 15 times on each leg.

6. Bird Dog

What does this exercise work: quadriceps, hip flexors and core

How to do it: Start on all fours with your knees on the floor. Extend your right arm straight in front of you, and straighten your left leg behind you. Then, slowly bring your right elbow and left knee in under your body to touch. Pause there before slowly straightening your right arm in front of you, and your left leg behind you. Repeat 15 times on each leg.

7. Donkey Kicks

What does this exercise work: glutes and hip flexors

How to do it: Start on all fours with your knees on the floor, bent in a 90 degree angle. Then, extend your right leg back, keeping your knee bent, and lifting your heel to the ceiling. Remember to keep your back straight, since many people tend to allow their backs to cave while performing this movement. Also ensure your knee points straight down. Hold the position for 2 seconds, then slowly lower your knee back to the floor. Repeat 15 times on each leg.

8. The Plank

What does this exercise work: hips and core

How to do it: Starting in a push-up position, lower your elbows to the floor so that you are supporting your upper body with your forearms. Remember to keep your back straight, making sure your hips don’t drop to the floor or rise to the ceiling. Hold the plank position for 30 seconds to a minute. Repeat 4 times.

9. Wall Sit

What does this exercise work: quadriceps and patellar tendon

How to do it: Start with your back against a flat wall, then bend your knees - lowering your body into a “sitting position” against the wall. Your back should be up against the wall, your feet flat on the floor, and your knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Looking straight in front of you, hold the position for 1 minute. Repeat 4 times.

Final Thoughts

While bio-mechanical issues can sometimes be blamed for knee pain, the cause can often be due to poorly conditioned and tight muscles in the upper leg. This is because weak muscles are unable to adequately support the kneecap, leading to misalignment issues and pain. Adding the above exercises into your weekly routine is an easy and inexpensive way to relieve pain linked to runner’s knee. However, if the pain continues, it may be best to visit you doctor for further intervention.

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