I saw a client today that made me think of a common mistake that I see thousands of runners make.
This guy came in feeling knee pain following an increase in his running amount.
I myself am training for the Great North Run so have also increased my running causing me to reduce the amount of other training and exercise I do. Basically too many people exercise in the same way day after day after day, and often in the case of running using the same route.
Once we got into his exercise habits and an assessment of the knee he did a lot of hill runs and this was causing the muscles in his thigh to be stronger than the muscles in his hamstrings.
This difference in strength is caused as the thigh muscles are used to not only run up hill but also when coming down the other side and they don’t get a rest. This difference in muscle strength creates an imbalance around the knee joint.
Why is an imbalance bad?
Any muscle imbalance increases the pressure on the joint itself. Around any joint there are muscles that provide a movement and muscles that allow the movement to happen and then return it back to its original position.
Neither of these movements are the most important as they work in tandem to provide a smooth movement of the joint. Think of a door handle that after being pushed down returns back to its original position.
This requires a movement to be made smoothly and then an opposite action to return to its starting position. If either of the muscles is stronger than its opposite then the movement will be either be restricted or not occur correctly.
This imbalance in turn causes the joint to break down and develop conditions like cartilage damage and the dreaded arthritis.
Every joint is designed by nature and evolution to work in a specific way using the groves in bones to perform that joints actions. If the muscles aren’t balanced then the joint has to find the best way to work given it’s surroundings.
Unfortunately just like how a river cuts through the land to find its smoothest path over the course of time so to do ligaments, tendons and bones to mean the joint provides the action it is required to do.
This means that just like how the earth erodes so does the surface that protects the bones and the bones themselves over your lifetime. This often means you can exercise all your life and feel ok until you reach the later stages. We see this everyday in our clinic with people often reaching 50 before this becomes a problem.
Why is variation important?
A varied exercise program is vital as it allows different muscles to be worked and developed. This means the body is more balanced. By varied I don’t mean a complete makeover of your exercise but simple changes that could make a difference. For example if you run a lot switch to a cycle once a week or try swimming. Simply adding one gym session of light resistance work will also help develop the muscles you don’t normally use in your current training program.
Article Written By Top North East Sports Therapist, Kevan Spanton of Paul Gough Physio Rooms.
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