3 Ways to Prevent Knee Injuries

Published On September 1, 2013 | September/October 2013

Knee Problems? Try using Exercise, Foam Rollers and the Right Shoes to Keep your Knees Happy

Don’t forget that what you put on your feet can have a huge impact on your knees and other joints in your leg.

Special Contribution to Austin MD By Tim Valderrama

You start out on a run, the sun is shining, and you’re feeling both pride and exhilaration. Then, minutes or even seconds in, all you feel is the pain in your knee. There’s no arguing that running and other exercise can be tough on your body, but pain is not your fate: Knee injuries can be avoided through preventative measures.

The most common knee ailment is runner’s knee, which is an overuse injury. Runner’s knee has several different causes, but is most often due to irritation in the nerves around the kneecap, which occurs when the leg bends, as in running, jumping, biking and even walking. Most running injuries happen when you push yourself too hard, taking that extra lap or scaling that extra hill. Over time, the cartilage on the kneecap can wear down. All of your well-intentioned efforts in exercise and cardio can therefore lead to pain around the kneecap.

Also called Patello-Femoral Pain Syndrom(PFPS), the frustrating news for athletes and active Austinites is that runner’s knee is most frequently
treated with rest. But the injury can likely be avoided in the first place if you build up strong muscles around your knee and in your thighs, and keep your feet supported with high-quality shoes. Here are three ways to prevent knee injuries before they happen:

1. Exercises
In order to both speed up recovery and prevent injury, you must build the strength of the knee and surrounding muscles via exercise. According to, to work properly, the leg needs three things: strength (power and endurance), movement (joint range and muscle length) and stability (control, balance and proprioception). Lack of any of them can cause problems and pain. As with any injury prevention program, strengthening of the muscles surrounding the knee is important. The problem is that any knee injury will likely affect the contraction of leg muscles. According
to, this causes problems, including: Weakness, which limits either the instantaneous strength of the muscle or the endurance how long the muscle can work for. Tightness, which limits how much the leg can move.

What happens as a result of this tightness and weakness is a muscle imbalance, where some muscles don’t work hard enough and others try to work too hard, in order to compensate. How to fight this? Try any knee-specific exercise including strengthening, stretching, balance and control exercises, like lateral squats, body weight lateral lunges and wall squats. All of these will help strengthen your knee!

2. Foam roller
If you’re still feeling the ache, another great way to attack a troublesome muscle knot is direct pressure on the IT-Band. Clint Verran wrote an insightful piece for, which is excerpted here: “A well-trained massage therapist can effectively apply pressure to break up and relieve
muscle knots. These knots are pesky. It typically takes several treatment sessions to fix a well-placed knot. To make matters worse, these sneaky knots are famous for recurring again and again when you are least expecting it.

The best way to eliminate and prevent muscle knots is the foam roller. The foam roller is a firm foam log that is six inches in diameter. Use the roller
against the muscle knots with your own body weight to generate the direct pressure. Imagine using a rolling pin to roll out lumps in bread dough. A foam roller is an inexpensive, yet highly effective way to treat and prevent the most common injuries seen in runners. Foam rollers can be purchased at sporting goods stores or ordered online for less than $25. A few minutes a day can help keep you on the road for years to come and prevent injuries.”

Verran also offers more specifics on how to use a foam roller with this handy list, found at
Key Points for Specific Foam Roller Exercises
1. Roll back and forth across the painful or stiff area for 60 seconds.
2. Spend extra time directly over the knot or trigger point itself.
3. Roll the injured area two to three time a day. For prevention of injuries, two to three times a week is recommended.
4. Avoid rolling over bony areas.
5. Always stretch the area following foam rolling.

3. Shoes
Last but not least, don’t forget that what you put on your feet can have a huge impact on your knees and other joints in your leg. Shoes are the foundation to the bio-mechanics of how we walk. It’s important to change them every 6 to 9 months, depending on your level of activity. In general, most experts will suggest changing your running shoes every 300 to 400 miles, but let your body tell you when it’s time: it will know when there is little
or no cushioning left in your shoes. The experts at outdoor retailer REI had this advice to offer about replacing shoes: “If you notice any aches or pains in your feet, legs, knees, hips or back after you’ve worn your shoes, it’s a good sign that you need a new pair. Other signs include friction or blisters in unexpected places, which means your shoes have stretched and your feet are moving around too much. It’s a good idea to have two or three pairs of walking or running shoes that you can alternate using. You’ll find they’ll last much longer in the long run—or walk, as the case may be.”

Using these three ways to prevent knee pain can help keep you both healthy and active. Of course, if you experience knee pain, the first thing
you should do is see a doctor.

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