Among lower-extremity injuries, the knee is one of the most commonly injured regions of the body (Brant, Johnson, Brou, Comstock, & Vu, 2019; Fernandez, Yard, & Comstock, 2007). Knees are injured from walking, jumping, running, cutting, and from physical contact in sports. If you’re over 40, odds are contact sports aren’t part of your usual exercise regimen anymore. As an athlete, I have played a variety of sports growing up and into adulthood. God has blessed me with not having major knee injuries even as an over 35 year old playing in a competitive soccer league.
In this blog and over the next few blog posts, I’m going to talk about different knee injuries related to muscular dysfunction from sitting extended hours, even if you are physically active at the gym or in your hobbies. Older adults, professionals, and executives tend to sit for an extensive part of their day, which causes the muscles above and below the knee to be imbalanced. Working from home and sheltering in place have exacerbated this issue since March 2020.
Patellar Tendinopathy, or Jumper’s Knee, occurs at the base of the patella and from overuse. Typically, higher forces like running, landing, jumping, and cutting, are placed upon the knee repeatedly during the same types of activities. Pain is felt on the outside of the knee toward the base of the kneecap, on the patella tendon. Patellar Tendinopathy is not an injury requiring surgery if you rest and work on the muscles involved for the actions I mentioned.
Most people that sit long hours have tight quadriceps and weak glutes. They over rely on their quadriceps for running, jumping, landing, and squatting movements. This tightness can pull on the knee placing added stress upon the patellar tendon. Additionally, tight groin muscles (adductors) pulling your knees in can place more stress upon the patellar tendon from instability and increasing injury potential. The Q-angle, which is the angle your quadriceps have relative to your hips, increases from tightness in the hip flexors due to sitting. These are just a few reasons why patellar tendinopathy happens for the over 40 crowd working at their computer or seated at their devices.
Strengthening your glutes through active isolation exercises can reduce pain in your tendon. Being able to rely on them, in addition to your hamstrings, helps absorb the forces your body produces during running and jumping. When performing squats, lunges, and deadlifts, strong glutes are essential to increase the amount of weight you lift and keeping you in proper form. In a golf swing and tennis serve, using your glutes to drive power into the motion is critical for distance and speed of the serve.
Stretching your quadriceps helps to bring your thigh muscles into balance along with the strengthening of your hamstrings and glutes. Most gym goers spend a lot of time on their quads after sitting all week, which makes your knee pain worse. Stretch them before and after a leg workout or running session. 20-30 seconds for 1-2 sets is plenty to see results over time and reduce pain. Most people stretch their hamstrings after long hours at their desks, when their quadriceps are what need stretching attention instead.
The surface you train or run on can also play a role in Patellar Tendinopathy. Hard surfaces increase the pain in your knees. If possible, run on grass or turf. Hitting the streets for distance running is not friendly to the patella tendon, mix up your surfaces and see new results. Remember to rest, overtraining can be dangerous just like not training at all. Your tendons and ligaments need time to heal after more intense session. While you may feel like fat and lethargy are taking over, I promise they’re not after taking a couple days off.
To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com. I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies. Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know. Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!