If you’re a runner and starting to get knee pain don’t have the mindset of “no pain no gain” and definitely don’t go buy a knee brace! What if the knee pain when running is not actually a knee problem? What if you look past your symptoms? Here we are going to explore the following:

  • What causes knee pain from running 
  • Knee pain from bad running form
  • Runner’s knee treatment
  • And stretches for knee pain

Let’s start with understanding the cause of your pain, otherwise what exactly are we treating? 

What Causes Knee Pain from Running? 

There are many scenarios that can result in knee pain as well as different types of knee pain. If you’ve had a recent injury or direct impact to your knee, this is what is referred to as acute pain. Knee pain can stem from different parts of the knee and my blog on Knee Pain Diagnosis breaks it down for you.

For the sake of this blog, we will focus on chronic knee pain which is pain that has occurred over time, is possibly getting worse with time, and simply does not seem to go away. While this may be due to an old injury that was not properly treated, the most common cause of chronic knee pain in runners is dysfunctional movement of the whole body which can be identified in bad running form, but also in walking and any other movement. 

Knee Pain from Bad Running Form

First things first, it’s important that we understand that running goes beyond the knee joint and so does the cause of your pain. Most movements, including running, are not a result of one joint or muscle doing the movement but are the result of multiple joints and muscles working together to perform. 

You see, movement is like a concert; all the individual musicians play their parts, chiming in and out at the appropriate times following the lead of the conductor. Sometimes the spotlight is on the pianist, for example, while everyone else plays in the background and at other times it is on different musicians. The different musicians are the different muscles in your body, the musical notes represent the map of biological movement that is hardwired into all of us, and the conductor of the movement is the brain.

How do we know this is hard-wired? Think about it, all babies move the same way and go through the same developmental movements regardless of what part of the world we are from. We all have done the same without thinking about it. It is innate!

The general term for what I am talking about is Functional Movement or Developmental Kinesiology. Watch the video below for a deeper explanation of this and what this has to do with your knee pain from running. 

Running is a full-body performance, so in treating your knee pain it’s absolutely necessary to assess the function of the hips, ankle, lower back, core stabilizers, and upper body for possible contribution to your knee pain in order to fully address the dysfunction to not only treat your knee pain but also prevent other musculoskeletal issues.

It is much easier to fix the problem when the dysfunction first starts and when it is more manageable. The video below shows how to look for these subtle dysfunctions next time you are running.

Will Knee Pain from Running Go Away?

When you are experiencing pain, that is your brain telling you that something is not right. Pain is not always present, it does not come or go away just because. The whole mindset of, “no pain, no gain”, is not literal and all pains should be looked into no matter how subtle they might be. Before we continue, it is important to note that your brain has two goals:

  1. For you to live a long life; after all, the survival of the species depends on it
  2. For you to have the most pleasant day as possible, given what you throw at it

What sets us apart is the fact that we are highly adaptable. While there is a blueprint of movement that we are hard-wired to follow, this blueprint changes depending on our habits, injuries, and choices we make. This happens to minimize the amount of immediate pain that may be on the horizon. Over time, this new pattern becomes the ‘norm’ and this is how functional movements become dysfunctional movements. Watch this video to learn more about this process.

Runner’s Knee Treatment and Stretches for Knee Pain

Treatment of knee pain of course depends on the cause and your dysfunction is different than your running partners, but the concept of the treatment does not change. This is because we all, as babies, followed the same developmental movement pattern as we learned to roll over, crawl, stand, and walk. So why reinvent the wheel? Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization and Postural Neurology are what we use for all musculoskeletal problems including the runner’s knee pain.

The exercises below are great examples of these concepts in movement correction exercises and probably not what you were expecting. 

No baby picks up bands or dumbbells to build muscles, and yet every baby manages to develop the strength. I have plenty of patients who can pick up a heavy weight easily, but struggle to do the same movement we all did at 6 months old, using the correct muscles. Why is that?

In the rewiring of movement, certain muscles have taken over movements and completely bypass the correct muscles for that specific movement. So when you’re lifting weights or running, chances are that you are doing so mechanically using the wrong muscles. 

Now that you understand how the presence of dysfunctional movements can easily lead to chronic knee pain, it is best to get to the bottom of the issue sooner than later. If you think you need help with your knee pain, contact the office for your appointment.

Dr. Shakib