Consultant article: Looking after your knees over the Spring & Summer months
Now that spring is here we all desire to achieve new fitness goals. Running has become very popular as more and more people return to enjoy the great outdoors.
Running has once again seen a surge in participants and really is an accessible activity. A new pair of running shoes and some basic kit is not very expensive and enables both young and old to easily consider the “couch to 5k” as an achievable goal.
However, running is often associated with knee problems. Certainly, those people who already have advanced “wear & tear” changes within their joints will have already been advised not to run by their GP or specialist surgeon, and this advice holds true. For those of us with good joints however, running can, in fact, increase the ability of the cartilage surfaces to withstand increasing loads and therefore less susceptible to long term damage.
So, how does one maximise the benefits of running whilst at the same time avoiding injury? Most “injuries” suffered by runners are in fact overuse injuries and relate to the tendons which connect the various muscles to the bones of the knee joint. For example, “Runners knee”, which is an inflammation of the thick band of stabilising tissue on the outside of the knee joint. This and patella tendon inflammation are the two most common problems suffered by runners. There are less common problems that may also affect the internal structures of the joint - but these are rare.
To help minimise the occurrence of these problems, make sure you always do the following:
- Ensure you have a good pair of well-cushioned running shoes, fitted by an expert
- Stretch and warm up prior to your run
- If you are a novice, always start slowly and build gradually - no more than 10% gain in intensity or distance per workout
- Stretch and cool down after your activity
- Maintain good muscle strength and balance to the core, hip and knee
- Try not to use a “new pair” for a race or a specific event. Break them in beforehand
- If you develop niggles around the knee - rest your running for a week to see if they resolve
- Should you develop problems with your knee joints - seek help from an expert.
If you do find that you are having persistent issues with your knees despite doing everything you can, make sure you seek help and guidance from an expert who can diagnose, treat and help you return to an active lifestyle.
About Mr Owen Wall
Mr Owen Wall (FRCS Tr & Orth) is an experienced Consultant Knee Surgeon at Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital. Mr Wall is from a sporting background in endurance sports (running, cycling, triathlon) and has extensive experience in all knee surgery and in treating sports knee injuries. He has active research interests in stem cell cartilage techniques and cartilage repair.