Running, just like any kind of physical exercise, is a great idea. But like every form of exercise, it comes with its own share of injury risks. Most of this depends on your form. But some, unfortunately, can occur just because of the infrastructure of our roads, or something unexpected like a sudden accidental twist. According to Dr Kaushal Kant Mishra, associate director, Orthopedics, Fortis Escorts Bone & Joint Institute, Okhla, New Delhi, the most common knee injuries for runners are ligament injury and soft cartilage injury or meniscal injury. ACL ligament injury is also common among footballers, basketball or badminton players.
“The ligament injury usually happens because of imbalance. When there is uneven surface or some twist and turn while running and a person suddenly loses his balance, then ligament injuries might happen. And if the ligament injury is severe, then it might cause meniscal injury. Due to multiple movements or rotation in the knee joint, this meniscus gets caught between the two bones of the knee joint—thigh bone and leg bone. It may cause pain and discomfort to the knee,” explains Dr Mishra.
A few tell-tale signs can be swelling, severe pain, difficulty in balancing (or even standing up) and in some cases an audible pop. Usually the mild injuries, where there is swelling but you can walk, clear up within three weeks. If the injury and pain is severe, and you are unable to walk, then you must consult a specialist doctor and proceed with a properly supervised treatment.
“Usually, in all such cases, two main investigations are done—X-Ray and MRI. In case of ligament or meniscal injury, MRI should be done after 3 weeks. Every individual should put a straight knee brace as an immediate step before going to the doctor. Ice pack (Put a ice cube in a polythene, put a towel on the knee and then put the polythene on the towel) can be taken at home if the pain is not severe but if the pain is severe, patient should immediately consult a doctor and then take the necessary steps and doctor might prescribe painkiller initially to reduce the pain. So, ligament injury is very much treatable,” says Dr Mishra.
Prevention is better than cure, obviously. But in the unfortunate circumstance that you have already injured yourself, try to also incorporate strengthening exercises in your recovery routine. When it comes to strengthening though, it should not just be knee focused. Strengthening the muscles close to it can help to take the stress off the knee itself while running. Therefore your quads, hamstring, thighs etc need to get stronger as well. Here are a few exercises for strengthening by Palak Dengla, chief physiotherapist, Aster RV Hospital, JP Nagar, Bengaluru.
Hamstring Stretch: Sit against the wall with the legs extended straight, loop a stretchbelt around your forefoot, and pull the belt toward your face. Hold the stretch for 30 secs, repeat thrice on either side.
Static Quadriceps: Sitting against the wall, place a small, folded towel under the knee, and press it down holding the contraction for 10 secs, repeat it 10 times on each side.
Short –Arc Extension: Sitting against the wall, place a folded pillow under the knee, straighten the knee and hold the position for 10 secs, repeat for 10 times on either side.
Straight leg lift: Lying down on your back, bend the left knee, raise the right leg straight up till the height of the other bent left knee, hold the position for 10 secs, repeat it 10 times.
Side Leg lift: Lying on your side, bend the lower leg, lift the top leg straight up to 15 degrees, hold there for 10 secs, repeat it on either side.
Gluteal Strengthening: Lie down straight on your stomach, raise left leg by 10 degrees, hold there for 10 secs by tightening the hip muscles simultaneously, repeat it 10 times on each side.