Why Jogging Could Be Causing Your Knee Pain

man with leg pain

Our knees…

We can talk all day about staying active and being fit, but the fact of the matter is that we often overlook and don’t pay attention to our knees.

I’ve been guilty of this as well. We often spend more time shopping for the nicest-looking running shoes instead of focusing on what will provide our bodies the most support. 

The knee is the largest joint in the body. When we’re talking about movement, it is responsible for carrying the body’s weight in horizontal (walking and running) and vertical (jumping directions). The knee joint allows flexion and extension as well as slight internal and external rotation. 

It’s such a tiny part of the body, but so important! The knee is prone to a wide variety of aches, injuries, and pain.

Fun fact: Kneeling holds many different symbolic values. In Japan, tea ceremonies involve kneeling to greet guests. In Christianity, people kneel in prayer or to receive a blessing. On the complete opposite spectrum, you might have seen or heard of “kneecapping” in movies or crime shows. In these shows, kneecapping is typically a practice associated with organized crime or big fight scenes. They do it by destroying the kneecaps either shattering or shooting them. It makes for an effective technique because the effects are not life-threatening, but extremely painful and debilitating.

The knees allow us to do all sorts of movements, and yet most of us don’t even have an inkling of how to take care of the knees so that they stay strong and mobile. More often than not, we would think that all we have to do is “exercise”, but that’s not always the case.

For instance, let’s talk about jogging. If you have a pre-existing knee condition or injury, jogging can do more harm than you think. The knees can take a lot of pressure. But over time and through repeated pressure on the joints, the knees wear down and eventually weaken.

Running can be good and healthy for a lot of people, but it’s important to start and progress slowly. For many people, a walking program is better than jogging or running.

Now I’m not saying that running or jogging should be avoided. I simply want to stress the importance of preparing the body before doing exercises that put a lot of pressure on your knees. 

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common conditions that can be associated with a knee injury. The Arthritis Foundation claims that more than 27 million people in the U.S. have it and that the knees are one of the most commonly affected areas. 

And while it is true that elderly people have a higher possibility of getting osteoarthritis, it can still pose a health risk for younger people.

You might be thinking, hold on, but I like to go jogging or running…Are you saying I can’t do that anymore? Nope, that’s not what I’m saying at all! Running doesn’t have to hurt your knees…as long as you do it correctly.

Just like machines and exercises at the gym, two people can do the same thing in very different ways. One with good form, the other with bad form. Joggers and runners often have problems because they run with poor form and are often wearing the wrong types of shoes without the proper support. 

Things like maintaining good posture, engaging the core muscles, looking forward, not tilting your head down, and not slumping your shoulders can have a big impact on your knees. 

Your shoes can also make a big impact! Despite them feeling super comfy – most sneakers and running shoes do not have the proper support. My suggestion is to look into custom orthotics that can be slipped into any shoe. Our feet are the base of the body and if they are not positioned properly can lead to all kinds of issues from knee pain to back pain. 

If you do look into orthotics, I’d avoid the cheap ones you can find at the pharmacy. They are not tailored to your specific needs and are barely any better than the insert already in your shoes. Your local podiatrist should be able to analyze your foot, the way you walk, and help you out with a pair of custom orthotics that will last for years!

Getting back to knee pain… if you’ve ever had it, you know it can be aggravating and debilitating. Fortunately, there are several ways on how to treat and prevent it from getting worse.

But before we go there, here are some of the symptoms of knee pain:

• Redness and warmth to the touch

• Weakness or instability

• Popping or crunching noises

• Swelling and stiffness

• Inability to fully straighten the knee

For more information on symptoms check out the info from Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/knee-pain/symptoms-causes/syc-20350849

But let’s discuss some things that may help prevent knee pain.

The first one is doing stretches before and after every exercise session. Many people underestimate the power of stretches and how it makes a big difference. 

The warm-up will gently prepare the body for exercise by increasing heart rate and circulation. A quick note here, I suggest active stretching instead of static! There are all sorts of videos on my Instagram so check it out if you want some examples (@officialdannyshapiro)!  

Stretching and loosening the knee joint will increase the blood flow to the area. Also, don’t forget to do cool-down exercises and stretching! If you want to do static stretching, do it after you’re done! If you were jogging or running, 5-10 minutes of low-impact activity such as walking is great!  

If you are in a work setting that is physically demanding or requires you to do heavy lifting, you may have been told to lift with your legs or knees. While I agree that this is the safest way to lift things, don’t forget to look after your knees with some stretching! Don’t forget your work environment might be what others do for exercise! 

The same goes in a situation where you care for your kids or grandchildren where you often have to pick them up or chase them around. It can feel like a bit of a workout, right? That’s why it is really important to do some stretches.

The next thing we’re going to discuss is if you work and live a sedentary lifestyle… i.e you spend a lot of time sitting behind a desk, tv, etc… Just like with back pain, if you’re not very active this can have a big impact on your knees. 

If you’re not sure what kind of exercise you can start with, I’d suggest just start with walking! You can also do light aerobic exercise. But if you already have knee pain, it could make you reluctant to work out and just “rest”. 

Resting might make you feel better while you’re doing it, but research studies have proven inactivity will cause pain and stiffness to get worse. I’m not saying you need to go out and run a marathon but do exercises that you can tolerate. You might want to avoid jumping and running which are high-impact activities. Instead, try swimming or walking. These are low-impact activities that will get you moving in the right direction. If you have questions, a physical therapist can help you get out of pain and create a plan to get you feeling better quickly! Don’t let a doctor scare you into knee surgery before speaking with a physical therapist that knows about knees!

Now, what about activities that are a part of your daily routine? Let’s say you like gardening. It goes without saying that you have to kneel when you work in the garden, but the question is, how often do you do this? Sure, gardening can be relaxing and therapeutic, but it can leave you feeling stiff and painful. A common knee condition is ‘gardener’s knee’, or knee bursitis that causes inflammation and swelling. 

Technically, it’s an ailment brought on by continuous, repetitive motions when tending the garden. But you can get it through repetitive movements that you do over and over again. Just like with running or jogging, you should do warm-up exercises to prevent further injuries. See it’s all pretty similar! 

Some people are tempted to put on knee pads or a knee brace which can help short-term! But it’s not tackling the root cause of the problem which could be weakness and instability in the knees. 

The body has a way of telling us when something’s off. That’s pain, and once you notice it, it’s just not something you can ignore. You have to decide which treatment is suitable for your needs. Repetitive strain injuries are common among athletes and people who have labor-intensive jobs or hobbies. Things like cold packs, pain pills, TENS units can all give short-term relief. But you need to get to the root cause of the issue if you want to really prevent your knees from getting worse. A physical therapist can help you with that.

Even if you don’t have any pain now, if you experience it, don’t ignore it. That applies to any part of the body whether it’s the knee, back, neck, etc…If the knee pain becomes intense, take a day or two of rest. The joints and muscles tend to become sore after a strenuous workout, that’s why a lot of workout plans suggest a few days of rest to recuperate. And if it doesn’t get better, book an appointment with a physical therapist. 

A physical therapist can evaluate and make a customized rehabilitation plan to treat your knee pain. At the same time, a PT will usually also develop a set of exercises to strengthen your knee without increasing the risk of injury. Just watch out for PTs that mainly put you on machines, use cold/heat packs, and don’t give you specialized exercises. If you’ve gotten that kind of treatment before and didn’t really get lasting results, it might be time to find a new physical therapist!

To summarize, knee pain can occur not only in elders but in younger people as well. For such a tiny part of the body, the knee is prone to many aches and injuries. The knees tend to get overlooked almost by everyone, and that’s when it’s common for an injury to take place. It’s important to identify what the root cause of the knee pain is and how you’re going to address it. Ignoring the pain will typically only make it worse.

If you want to learn more about knee pain and physical therapy, please check out our knee pain page here: https://projectphysicaltherapy.com/knee-pain-relief

We’d love to give you some advice and answer any questions you may have! Please click here to request a FREE discovery visit or Call us at: 718-223-5233

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