Whether you’re a competitive runner or a causal jogger, running is a form of exercise with several well-documented health benefits. Even so, it’s not unusual for frequent runners to experience distracting knee pain. Most of the time, it’s a temporary inconvenience, although 70 percent of runners may have knee pain at one time or another. Here are four things you can do as a runner to avoid knee pain.
1. Make Stretching a Habit
Even if you’re an experienced runner, stretching is essential to keeping your knee and its supporting tissues healthy. Doing some simple knee stretches before a practice run, morning jog, or 10K keeps muscles limber and improves the circulation of beneficial nutrients to your knees.
2. Select the Right Shoes
Don’t focus solely on cushioning for your feet with shoes. Instead, choose running shoes that provide enough overall foot support. Having shoes that don’t provide enough support can put too much pressure on tendons that connect to other tissues around knees.
3. Do More Than Running for Training
A lot of runners are in the habit of mainly focusing only on leg muscles when training. If this is what you normally do, you may end up with muscle groups that are out of balance, which could result in more stress on knee muscles. For instance, over-working hamstrings can result in weaker quadriceps. Instead, mix up your workout and training routine to include core exercises to target multiple muscle groups.
4. Make Smart Food Choices
Whether you’re a runner or not, your joints need the right nutrients to stay healthy. With bone-supporting calcium, the standard recommendation for adults is 1,000 mg per day. Other foods that can be good for your knee joints include green, leafy vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and lean proteins. If you have existing issues with occasional knee pain, foods with natural anti-inflammatory properties such as nuts, berries, whole grains, and tomatoes can be beneficial.
“Runner’s knee” (patello-femoral pain) and iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome are among the most common causes of knee pain. If you experience any type of knee-related discomfort, applying ice or heat can reduce swelling and improve circulation. Taking it easy when pain lingers sometimes helps, as does over-the-counter medication. However, if these attempts at pain relief aren’t helping or if your knee pain is getting worse, see your doctor. You may be referred to an orthopedic specialist for further evaluation if other treatment attempts aren’t effective.