A Simple Adjustment to Decrease Knee Pain While Running

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You may be able to prevent knee pain from patellofemoral stress syndrome or joint degeneration by changing your running style.

If you have knee pain from patellofemoral stress syndrome (PFSS), you may be having difficulty walking, running, or climbing and descending stairs. Your physical therapist can work with you to help you control your symptoms, improve your strength and stability, and get you back to your normal activities.

Many people who are runners for exercise or recreation develop PFSS.  The pain may come on gradually or suddenly, and it can prevent you from enjoying running or jogging for exercise.

Your physical therapist can assess your PFSS and determine the correct treatment for your condition.  Treatments often prescribed for PFSS include:

Study on Trunk Position and Knee Pressure in Runners

Recent evidence in the journal Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise suggests that making changes to your running form can help decrease your PFSS symptoms or decrease the likelihood that you'll develop PFSS in your knees.

The researches examined 40 runners (20 men, 20 women) with no pain in their knees. Running form was assessed and trunk position was measured.  Participants were placed into either a high trunk flexion group or a low trunk flexion group.  Lower extremity kinematics were measured for both groups.

The researchers found that the high trunk flexion group had significantly more hip extensor energy generation with lower knee extensor energy absorption.  Basically, the group that ran with a slightly flexed-forward trunk lean placed significantly less pressure through their knees.  There was no difference in the kinematics of the ankles in either group.

What Does This Mean to You?

If you are a runner and are looking to maintain healthy knees, changing your running style to an increased forward lean may help decrease pressure through your knees.  This may help to reduce the chance that you will develop knee pain from PFSS.

When changing your running style to include more forward lean, make sure you are feeling like you are bending forward from your ankles, and not your low back.  No need to run like a hunchback - simply bring your pelvis forward over your ankles.

The best way to ensure that you are changing your running style properly is to visit your physical therapist.  He or she can assess your running form (perhaps with video gait and running analysis), and can identify impairments that you can work on to improve your running form.

If you have knee pain, changing your running form may help reduce pressure through your knee joint to reduce or eliminate your pain.

Making slight adjustments in your running form may have a positive impact on your running performance and may reduce your knee pain. Check in with your doctor, and then visit your physical therapist to get a complete evaluation of your knees and running style.

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Article Sources
  • Teng, H, Powers, C. Influence of trunk posture on lower extremity energetics during running. Med Sci Posrt and Exer. 47(3) March 2015.  625-630