As a runner, I tend to think of the quad as one muscle…or maybe two…you have the left quad and the right quad, right? Wrong. In reality the quadriceps are made up of four muscles (duh.): the vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis and rectus femoris. In an attempt to treat this runner’s knee issue, I have been researching Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome nonstop. I basically shrugged off the idea that my quads aren’t strong enough…I mean my thighs are like tree trunks (in a good way?). My quads are huge. I entertained the idea of the imbalance between the quads and hamstrings, but even then, I work my hamstrings at the gym to attempt to even out any imbalance that is present. As I kept reading however, I realized the problem.
From this website…
Your knee is popping because two of those four muscles are in a tug-o-war over your knee cap and one of them is winning. The two muscles causing the knee popping are your vastus lateralis and your vastus medialis. The vastus medialis is on the inner-front part of your thigh and the vastus lateralis is on the outer-front part of your thigh. These two muscles connect on either side of your knee cap. In some people, for whatever reason, the vastus lateralis gets too strong or the vastus medialis gets too weak. As a result, the knee cap is pulled too far to the outside by the overly strong vastus lateralis and as the knee moves the knee cap isn’t gliding properly in the trochlear groove, causing knee popping, clicking, snapping, and other similar noises and sensations. In a healthy knee, the relative strength of the vastus lateralis and the vastus medialis is balanced and the knee cap slides up and down in the trochlear groove as it’s supposed to.
When I looked down at my quads, I could see the difference. The vastus lateralis (on the outside of the thigh) was huge. Literally protruding off of my leg; but the vastus medialis was practically nonexistent. So I found some exercises to work this hidden muscle.
~Straight Supine Leg Lifts: Lying on your back, place your hands under your lower back for support, raise one leg a few inches off the floor, lift to 90 degrees and lower, not touching the floor. Repeat and switch sides. I like to point my toes on the way up and flex the foot on the way down, almost like you are painting an imaginary wall with your foot. (Hello Pilates!)
~Stability Ball Leg Lifts: Laury from the Fitness Dish originally got me to do this exercise but I love it. It is great for lower abs and inner thighs. Put a stability ball between your feet and lay on your back. Lift and lower the ball, squeezing it with your feet from a few inches off the floor to 90 degrees and return. Be sure to protect your lower back and lift and lower with control.
~Leg Circles: We did this exercise in mat Pilates today. Lie on your back and extend your legs to 45 degrees. Open your legs about the width of your mat (if you are lying on one), circle them up to 90 degrees, squeeze them together and return to 45 degrees. Repeat 8-12 times then reverse the movement. Start at 90 degrees, circle to 45, bring together and return to 90.
There are many other ways to work this muscle but these are some non-weight bearing ways to strengthen it without causing more damage. In addition to strengthening this muscle, I have been icing, foam rolling, taking an anti-inflammatory, and resting. *Please do not attempt to diagnose yourself and always remember to consult with a physician before starting any exercise program*
I also bought these today:
Glucosamine supplements and a knee strap. I read a lot of positive things about using this knee strap to treat runner’s knee. I tested it out today on a short 3 mile run, and let me tell you…this thing is AMAZING! This was the best I have felt since the marathon, and although I had some pain, it was 90% better than it had been. If you are suffering from runner’s knee, it is definitely worth a shot. The one I bought was about $9 from Walmart. I will let you know how the supplements go.
Okay no more about the knee. My next post will be about something else