The most complete human fossil of our ancient ancestors ever discovered is a skeleton of a young boy, about eight years old at time of death and whose bones were preserved in the sediments of lake Turkana in northern Kenya for 1.5 million years, from where it was found in 1984. A Homo erectus, the human species we are believed to have directly evolved from, Turkana boy is the first human fossil to reveal that his species walked and ran just like us today, centering his weight over his pelvis.
I wrote in an earlier post ‘Is running for everyone‘ about pronation related knee injuries and how I attempted to use shoe solutions to correct it.
Since after writing that post, I have been running with a shoe that was recommended to me by the shoe store after a gait analysis. I noticed that, even though the pain was much less, there still would be some degree of pain after the 8km mark. Therefore, the longer I ran, the more the pain became intense mostly around my knee cap. With this new information, I decided to take my investigation into the problem a step further by visiting a physiotherapist.
After a thorough evaluation and assessment of my gait, lower extremity strength (including hip strength), and range of motion by the physical therapist, it was found that the cause of the pain was weakness in my hip muscles like the gluteus medius. Mainly the hip abductor and external rotators. This weakness allows your thighs to rotate and pull inwards abnormally which puts excessive strain and stress around your knee joint and kneecap. And apparently, after the 8km mark, when I begin getting tired, i tend not to keep a good running posture and hence unable to level my pelvis. A function controlled by the gluteus medius with the help of other hip muscles.
I was asked to perform some hip muscle strengthening exercises, to be conscious about my running posture when running and to stretch after every run (this was already part of my routine). I followed these and I haven’t experienced any pain in my knee when I run since then. Just like our ancestor, the ‘Turkana boy’, a leveled pelvis is key to our walking and running. Actually, research has found that, weakness in hip muscles is the cause of many running injuries.
If you are suffering from knee injuries when you run like athlete’s knee, you should consider seeing a physical therapist. But you could start working on your hip muscle strength today by doing these three common hip muscle exercises. They are the side leg lift, the “clam” leg lift, and the back bridge. A daily dose of 3 sets of 15 – 30 reps should do.