3 Common Reasons Your Knees Hurt

Knee Pain

Knee Pain

Spring is officially here and it’s around this time that a lot of folks who set out to start running or exercising again at the New Year are starting to complain of their knees hurting.

If you’re over the age of 40 – one of the most common questions I get is…

Is running bad for your knees? Does it cause arthritis?

The short answer is “No”!

If you experience knee pain when you run, it’s not that you’ve “aged out” of the sport, or because running is causing arthritis in your knees.

This is a very common misconception about running. In fact, research supports that running may actually be GOOD for your knees.

Staying strong, active, and mobile is your best TREATMENT against osteoarthritis. Therefore runners, because they are typically active and healthy individuals, often have healthier knees than their non-running counterparts.

Ok then – so what really causes knee pain in runners, and what is actually responsible for debilitating arthritis to develop?

In most cases, it’s usually small to medium biomechanical issues that go unaddressed over time. Like a small leak under the sink that erodes your cabinets until one day you finally see it but it’s too late for a simple fix and now your wife wants to remodel the whole kitchen. No? Just me? Okay back to your knee pain…

But the GOOD news is that once identified – these issues can actually be fixed with proper education and strengthening (best offered by a movement specialist – like us!).

If you catch these issues ahead of time – arthritis is less likely to become problematic or debilitating.

What’s important for you to remember is that arthritis is like gray hair – everyone gets it as they age.

What doesn’t have to be “normal” is for arthritis to stop you from running.

Watch this Youtube video on how to treat a runner’s knee.

Here are three of the most common factors we see that are often the true culprit of your knees hurting when you run – not arthritis;

1) Poor ankle mobility and stability

Ankle mobility affects the way force hits your foot, which can impact your knee. If your ankle doesn’t move fully, freely, and adequately – excess forces will be shifted to your knee. The knee may be forced to flex, rotate, and/or tilt more than it needs to. This, in turn, may result in unwanted loads that the tissues of the knee can’t handle.

Ankle stability helps with balance and sharing load forces through the lower leg muscles before sending them up to the knee. A biomechanical and movement expert can not only help you identify if this is your true “knee problem” – but can also help you improve your ankle mobility and stability in order to prevent long-term damage to the joints, tendons, and ligaments of your knees. We actually see this as a very common problem in those that have sprained or twisted their ankles in the past. If that’s you – then this could be a reason why you’re suffering from knee pain while you run.

2) Weakness in your hips and thighs

There’s a widely perpetuated myth out there that runners don’t need to strength train. That’s simply not true! Adding strength training to your running regimen makes it way less likely that you’ll suffer an injury. When it comes to protecting your knees, developing good, balanced strength in your hips and thighs is critical. This keeps the knee cap in a better position for the big quadriceps muscles on top of our thigh to do their job.

Since running is extremely repetitive on your joints, especially your knees, it requires they have good durability and endurance. Something that is lost quickly when you neglect proper strength training. Strength training in the hips protects against small bio-mechanical “leaks” or “wear and tear” in your knees – otherwise known as arthritis – getting blamed for your knee pain when in actuality, the loss of strength around your knees is what’s causing that wear and tear to feel worse than it needs to.

3) Unstable core

It may seem like running is all in the legs, but the stability of your pelvis and trunk have a huge influence on how your legs perform. You derive the majority of your power, speed, and stamina from your core muscles and glutes. With ankle mobility, if your core is not performing adequately or efficiently – your legs will have to work harder.

A stable core is key for developing and maintaining good balance and rhythm with any activity – but especially running. With a repetitive activity like running, efficiency and form is everything. Without a strong core, it’s impossible for your leg muscles and knee joints to work as efficiently as they should. It will be really difficult for you to maintain good and proper running from a mile to a mile. When your core strength is weak and doesn’t have enough endurance to sustain the number of miles you want to run, your knees will suffer.

When it comes to knee pain and running over 40 – arthritis usually takes the blame. This often leads to unnecessary pills or injections to decrease the inflammation and surgery to fix the “wear and tear” in your knee. But if you don’t check and address any of the biomechanical issues I mentioned these fixes will be temporary and your knee pain will keep coming back. And worse… could force you to stop running altogether!

The take-home point here is that running alone doesn’t cause arthritis in your knees. It can make arthritis that is already there  WORSE if you don’t address some of these three important issues.

If you’re suffering from knee pain, and it’s starting to impact your ability to run or do any other activity that you love…

Talk to one of our specialists for FREE by requesting a Free Discovery Session.

A Discovery Session is an opportunity for those looking for help to speak with one of our specialists and find out 1) if you’re a good fit for what we do and 2) if we can help you.


Nick Hunter, PT, DPT

You Might Also Like...