A Montana summer seems to last all of about two months, and with such a short period of optimal trail conditions, most of us tend to overexert—and that can lead to injuries. One of the most common injuries from overtraining is knee pain. This can come in many forms, but two of the most frequent are patellofemoral pain, which usually manifests itself as pain on the top of the knee, and iliotibial (IT) band friction syndrome, which usually presents as pain on the outside of the knee. In many cases, the underlying problem is hip weakness.
Weakness in hip musculature can lead to problems down the kinetic chain, from your hips to your knees to your ankles. Hip weakness can cause your knee to turn inward, which makes your kneecap sit improperly in the groove of the femur and causes pain. What can you do to protect yourself from these injuries? Easy—move from side to side.
Side-Lying Hip Abduction
Lie down on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other. Lift your leg up from the other as high as it can go without rotating your hips or lower back. Your leg should be about 10-15 degrees behind the other leg. Do not let it come forward. Perform two sets of 15 on each side.
Resistance Band Side Steps
Tie a resistance band together into a small circle. It should be about six inches in diameter. Put this around both ankles. Walk in a lateral (sideways) direction. Make sure to keep tension on the band at all times. Do not let the trail leg snap back towards the leading foot. Walk 30 seconds in one direction, then without turning around, walk 30 seconds in the other direction. Your hips should be burning by the end of the minute. If not, repeat.
Standing Three-Way Hip with Resistance Band
Balance on one leg and raise the opposite leg out to the side ten times. Then raise your leg out and back at a 45-degree angle ten times. Then raise your leg straight back ten times. Then ten times at a 45-degree angle again (same as before). Then ten times out to the side again for a total of 50 times per side.
Shannon McCarthy and Christian Appel are physical therapists at Great Northern Physical Therapy in Bozeman. They can be reached at greatnorthernpt.com.