New research shows that a twice weekly hip strengthening regimen proved effective at reducing or eliminating the kind of knee pain referred to as patellofemoral pain (PFP) in female runners. Stronger hips may correct running form errors that contribute to PFP.
The study used a pain scale of 0 to 10, with 3 representing the onset of pain and 7 representing very strong pain. The injured runners began the six-week trial registering pain of 7 when they ran on a treadmill, and finished the study period registering pain levels of 2 or lower.
According to Science Daily:
"PFP, one of the most common running injuries, is caused when the thigh bone rubs against the back of the knee cap. Runners with PFP typically do not feel pain when they begin running, but once the pain begins, it gets increasingly worse ... PFP essentially wears away cartilage and can have the same effect as osteoarthritis."
Vigorous physical activity in young children results in stronger hip bones.
More than 200 six-year olds participated in a study. Researchers measured bone mass and analyzed the structure of the hip and thigh bone. Physical activity was assessed for seven days.
According to Science Daily:
"The results showed that there was a relationship between time spent in vigorous activity and strength of the femoral neck, both in terms of shape and volumetric mineral density. This was independent of other factors such as diet, lifestyle and physical size."
Poor form during exercise can end up frequently hurting your knees and cause you to develop problems like patellofemoral pain (PFP) which frequently occurs in female runners. PFP occurs when your thigh bone starts rubbing against the back of your knee cap while running.
According to a pilot study, this type of pain can be reduced or even eliminated simply by strengthening your hips.
Granted, this was a very small, preliminary study, but your body almost always has the innate ability to rebalance itself when something is out of alignment, so the theory is quite plausible.
The key is to determine which area needs to be strengthened to correct the imbalance.
In this case, the theory that strengthening your hips to improve your gait, which in turn might correct the form error that contributes to PFP, makes sense, as stronger hips will help reduce the severity of the "q" angle on your leg alignment.
The q angle is more severe on women because the distance between a woman's femur bones is greater for child-bearing reasons. This ends up putting more pressure on women's knee joints.
The hip-strengthening exercises prescribed during this study involved single-leg squats and resistance band exercises, twice a week for 30-45 minutes, for six weeks.
The results were surprisingly positive as the majority of the runners no longer experienced onset of pain when running at the end of the trial.
Other Helpful Tips to Reduce Knee Pain
Strengthening and stretching the areas around, above, and below your knee is key to lessening or eliminating most knee pain.
Non-weight bearing leg and knee strengthening exercises that can help include:
- Sitting on the edge of a table or bed and slowly bending and straightening your leg
- Laying face down on the floor and slowly bending your leg, bringing your knee towards your gluteus
- Laying on your back, one leg bent and the other leg extended, then slowly raising your extended leg towards the ceiling.
Complete these exercises with a minimum of 8 repetitions, at a slow and controlled pace.
Stretching is also recommended as tightness above and/or below your kneecap can increase the pain and decrease range of motion.
My favorite types of stretches are active isolated stretching (AIS), which could also be very beneficial in this case.
With AIS, you hold each stretch for only two seconds, which works with your body's natural physiological makeup to improve circulation and increase the elasticity of joints. This technique also allows your body to repair itself and prepare for daily activity.
About two years ago I was introduced to Aaron Maates' work in flexibility called Active Isolated Stretching (AIS). He really is a profoundly gifted therapist and has treated many world class athletes. But the techniques work well for any type of injury, as well as helping one to heal.
I believe so much in his work that we have actually employed a therapist who uses this technique to treat our patients. The video at the beginning of the article is taken from a DVD set that he has available for injuries, If you find it helpful I would strongly recommend getting his DVD.
Strong, Healthy Bones Begins in Childhood
It should come as no surprise that good bone health in your later years begins in your youth, during your childhood and adolescence, when skeletal growth is at its peak. This time of bone development sets the stage for what's to come.
Since peak bone mass during childhood and adolescent years is one of the known major factors that can either contribute to, or help prevent osteoperosis down the road, it makes sense to pay attention to building strong and healthy bones during the early years.
According to studies, mechanical loading -- running, jumping, as opposed to swimming or biking -- is one of the best strategies to help your kids build excellent bone mass early on.
Excess body fat may also contribute to poor bone health, so helping your child normalize her weight can have far-reaching benefits in this area as well.
Adults who are overweight or obese can also benefit two-fold from exercise. Aside from the weight loss, exercise has been linked to improvements in bone mass in this age group as well.
How to Naturally Strengthen Your Bones
You and your children alike can use the following tips to return to a healthy weight and support your bone health at the same time.
- Eat more vegetables, according to your nutritional type.
- Exercise regularly. This, along with diet, is a KEY to building strong bones.
- Increase your intake of omega-3 fats (from krill oil) while decreasing your intake of omega-6 fats (from vegetable oils). Too many omega-6 fats, and too few omega-3, has been linked to low bone density.
- Get plenty of sunshine. This will increase your levels of vitamin D, a crucial nutrient for your bones.
- Make sure you're getting enough vitamin K. It serves as the biological "glue" that helps plug the calcium into your bone matrix. Green leafy vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin K, but even better is natto, a fermented soy food that I personally enjoy (it has the highest concentration of vitamin k in the human diet).
- Get the right kind of calcium. The best form of calcium is from milk. However, I would strongly advise you to avoid pasteurized milk like the plague. An acceptable alternative for most is raw milk. You can also convert the raw milk to kefir (fermented raw milk) for an excellent source of vitamin K2 as well.