Eliminate Knee Pain With Hip Exercise

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If you suffer with a common type of knee pain called patellofemoral pain (PFP), you may be able to reduce or eliminate the pain with hip strengthening exercises done just twice a week. At least that was the finding among a group of female runners who participated in an Indiana University-Purdue University study.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is the most common knee injury among athletes and physically active adults, according to a report from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. Also known as runner’s knee, biker’s knee, and patellofemoral pain syndrome, it affects women more than men.

In the current study, female runners who were experiencing knee pain were enrolled in a six-week trial that was based on the theory that strengthening the hips would correct running form errors that contribute to PFP. This knee injury is caused when the thigh bone rubs against the back of the patella, or knee cap.

PFP typically does not cause pain when people begin running, but once the pain begins, it increases. When runners stop running, the pain disappears almost immediately. Research indicates that the wear and tear characteristic of PFP can have the same effect as osteoarthritis.

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Five runners with PFP and four controls participated in the pilot study. The investigators gathered hip strength measurements before and after the control runners maintained their normal running program for six weeks. In the injured runners, measurements were taken before and after the six-week period in which they performed hip strengthening exercises.

The exercises consisted of single-leg squats and activities with a resistance band. All the exercises are easy enough to be done at home. Before the exercises, the injured runners reported a pain score of 7 (very strong pain and the point at which runners typically stop running). By the end of the six-week trial, all the runners reported a pain level of 2 or lower, which is no onset of pain.

Typically, treatment of PFP is directed at correcting muscle imbalance, weakness, or alignment problems of the lower back, pelvis, hips, or lower extremities. Braces, ice therapy, taping, and use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often employed. Surgery is usually necessary in only about 20 percent of cases.

The head of the study, Tracy Dierks, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at Indiana University-Purdue University, noted that he “wasn’t expecting such huge reductions” in knee pain. His study is part of ongoing research involving hip exercises and PFP pain. Dierks plans to seek funds to expand the test on a larger group of runners.

SOURCES:
American Medical Society for Sports Medicine
Indiana University

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