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How to take the knee stress out of running

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Here are some good tips for reducing the stress on your knees. 
an image of a woman jogging

 

One of the more common stress relievers is exercise, and simple running leads the pack. In large part, running has become so popular because of several features:

  1. It takes no time to coordinate. Just go when you are ready, with or without friends. No teammates are needed, you don’t need to book time on the court or field, and, with minor modifications in equipment, you can run day or night, summer or winter.
  2. It doesn’t require lessons. Although there are certainly very good lessons to be had, most people can just take off. Not true of skiing, tennis, and, least of all, golf.
  3. It is cheap. An old t-shirt and shorts, and a good pair of running shoes gets you started. No need for pads, helmets, uniforms, or equipment.
  4. It is a great way to burn off calories, and counteract the lack of movement incumbent in the modern work station.

The down-side of running is really just two-fold:

  1. Running can be boring, if you are not into the zen of it. Remedy: try running on a treadmill, and tune in to a video screen, or read a magazine while you trot. If you are an outdoor person, consider the ipod or other portable sources of sound. However, it is best to only plug into one ear, so the other one is left free to alert you to impending traffic warnings, or the sounds of an upcoming biker or dog.
  2. Running can hurt. Not every body is built for running. Some people have knock-knees or arthritis in feet, ankles, knees, or hips. Others have scoliosis or just poor posture, and find they get back pains if they run on hard surfaces. Others have unrealistic goals, and try to run too far before they get fit. (One tip from running coaches for beginners is to walk for a minute, then run for a minute. Repeat. Then gradually build up the minutes of running, still with a minute of walking between each set)

 

However, in medicine it is never that hard to figure out what kind of an injury a person has. The real question is what kind of a person does the injury have. I see runners every week in my office, often with the same pains, for example in the knees. Some are looking for an excuse to get off the compulsory running team at school, and want a note to join the swim team. Others are devoted to running, and nothing else will do as an option. It is in the latter group that we focus on in this article.

While running can cause pains in many body parts, let’s focus on the knee for now. One of the most common complaints is “runner’s knee”, otherwise called the “patella-femoral” syndrome. If you suffer from this, please read this article:  “patella-femoral” syndrome

In severe cases, we may need to have the patient lay off all running for a while, and switch to other “cross-training” exercises that don’t cause pain. The list of these could include such things as blading or skating, biking, or using the elliptical machine, or yoga. As a home treatment, it is good to follow the RICE principle after activity (Rest, ice, compression, elevation above the heart). Also remember that you may be making your knees hurt while you are NOT moving during desk duties all day. Set your computer to alert you every fifteen minutes, so you can flex/extend your knee regularly. See your doctor for specific guidance, and for customized strategies that might include orthotics, physiotherapy, massage, acupuncture, a trainer in the gym, or even a running coach.

 

For more info on coaching for beginners, read this link: http://hyannisroadrunners.com/

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