Knee pain. We’ve all experienced it at some point, that niggly pain that never quite goes away, that dull ache, that sharp pinch. This post isn’t to diagnose a knee injury (leave that to the experienced health professionals), this post is to give you an idea of how to help with knee pain, specifically a runner’s knee pain.
Knee pain can stem from a lot of places and can be caused by many things. The one I’m going to focus on today is ITB Syndrome, which is a very common runners’ injury.
Its sometimes misunderstood of how to address ITB syndrome. It’s been seen before that people try to stretch and release it until they weep. But understanding what the ITB actually is, shows us what you should actually be doing. As running is becoming one of the most popular sporting activities, the incidence of ITB syndrome has increased due to the lack of preparation to start running. A lot of individuals will just chuck on their trainers and run out the door, not particularly understanding warming up, stretching, strengthening etc. Now I’m all for people going out and leading a healthy lifestyle, but if you are not prepared you will increase the likelihood of getting an injury. Running is like any other sports, you have to practice and prepare for it.
Iliotibial band syndrome is one of the most common overuse injuries with runners. It happens when the iliotibial band, a thick band of connective tissue that runs from the outside of your hip to the outside of the knee becomes tight or inflamed.
The ITB helps stabilize and move the knee joint. When the ITB isn’t working properly, movement of the knee becomes painful. The pain can be severe enough to completely side-line a runner for weeks or more.
Now as you can see, the ITB is a thick band, basically an extended tendon that connects to the outside of the knee. It has three main muscles that connect to it, the Glute Max, Glute Med and the TFL (Tensor Fascia Latae).
Having three muscles connect to the ITB means that it has to deal with a great amount of stress and pull. Due to the ITB not being a muscle, it does not act or respond like a muscle. So, stretching and releasing the structure will not actually do much (apart from some neurological adaptations). The ITB is not elastic, so trying to release and increase length or range of motion there will actually cause more problems as you are disrupting the structure.
What you need to do is look at the muscles that attach to the ITB: Glutes and TFL. Now you have your culprits. If these muscles are tight then they will have a direct effect on the ITB, pulling on it and causing the inflammation at the knee. The same way a tight muscle will have an effect, a weak muscle will also have the same effect. Targeting the cause of the tightness will help relieve the symptoms at the knee.
RELEASING YOUR TFL AND GLUTES
The idea for releasing the TFL and Glutes comes back to targeting the trigger points within the muscle. They prevent full lengthening of the muscle, weakens the muscle, and mediates a local twitch response of muscle fibres when adequately stimulated. When compressed within the patient’s pain tolerance, it produces referred motor and often autonomic phenomena, generally in its pain reference zone.
Here are some simple ways to help release the tightness in those areas. At first, it will feel quite tender but as soon as you start to relax, the feel of tension will subside. And remember to BREATHE, it’s very important to control and relax your central nervous system so that you benefit the most from the pressure.
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