When dealing with any type of knee problem we need to understand the relationship that the knee has with the other joints in the body, particularly the hip and the foot. It can be said that the knee is caught between the foot and the hip, and as such the foot, knee, and hip make up what is known as a kinetic chain. In fact, many of the muscles that act at the knee also cross either the hip or ankle joint. As a result of this relationship, with any knee problem both the foot and hip must always be closely examined as an abnormality in either area will greatly influence problems at the knee.
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The popularity of running has grown over the years and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down any time soon. According to the Annual Running Report conducted by Running USA, the number of marathon finishers has grown tremendously over past two decades. In 2010 there were over a half a million reported marathon finishers. One of the reasons running has become so popular is because of its accessibility. All you need is a pair of running shoes and you’re out the door. No coaching needed, right? Or is there more to it? Can poor running form and mechanics put someone at a greater risk for injury? There are two main causes of overuse injuries related to running; over-training and faulty biomechanics.
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Pain in the front part of the knee or around the patella (knee cap) is a common complaint. Although direct trauma can cause knee pain, it is most often related to overuse or a cumulative injury. Common diagnoses include patella-femoral syndrome or runner’s knee, and patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee. The knee is designed to be stable and requires muscular strength and control.
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Whether you are squatting at the gym or sitting down in a chair your hips should do most of the moving. This is referred to as a “hip hinge”. Think of a hip hinge as shifting the weight of your hips backwards as you lower your body. The same motion is reversed as we rise. So a simple task like sitting and rising from a chair should involve hinging at the hips. Unfortunately we subconsciously lose this ability if it’s not practiced. If you watch a young child bend down to pick something up a tremendous amount movement takes place at the hips. As we age, sit more, and lose joint mobility we begin to cheat this movement by overusing our spine and knee joints. Overuse and too much flexion in both of these area will eventually result in pain. So often times teaching a hip hinge is great advice.
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When we want to increase running speed two things must happen. First we must increase our stride rate. This is simply increasing the number of strides we take over a given amount of time. The second is we need to increase our stride angle. Stride angle is a measure at our hips made up of our front and back legs. Both of these elements do not come naturally to most people. If one or both can’t be done a common compensation is overstriding.
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Here is quite possibly one of the best routines you can do prior to heading out the door for your run. While I don’t like to pigeon hole anyone into a single group when it comes to mechanical deficiencies, most runners could prevent a lot of injuries, and maybe improve performance, if they improve the efficiency of their hip joint.
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