Around this time of year, many people are training for races. Some may be seasoned runners and others may be running for the first time. In physical therapy clinics, we often see a lot of patients with anterior knee pain as they increase their mileage. Anterior knee pain in runners has been linked to weakness in the hip.
Running is a single limb sport. This means that only one foot is on the ground at a time. Hip strength is responsible for stabilizing the pelvis, preventing dropping of the hip and an inward force at the knee. A weak hip increases the inward force at the knee and this can lead to knee pain.
To work on hip strength in preparation for running, practice balancing on one leg. Be sure to engage your “core” (lower abdominals) and keep your hips level. You can challenge yourself by moving the leg you are not standing on in different directions (forward, backwards, etc.). Begin by balancing 20 - 30 seconds, repeating 2-3 times or as able.
Abduction straight leg raises will also isolate these important muscles. Lie on your side keeping your hips and knees in line. Lift top leg slowly up and down. Don’t forget to tighten your lower abdominals. 1-3 sets of 10 is a great place to start.
These exercises should not be painful. If you have pain or develop an increase in current symptoms, stop and seek advice or care from your doctor. As you train, please remember to gradually increase both your distance and speed to prevent injuries.
Prospective Evidence for Hip Etiology in Patellofemoral Pain. Noehren B., et al. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012. Dec 27.