Running on a treadmill is different than running outdoors or running on a track. It is a little easier to run on a treadmill because the surface is pliable and the moving belt assists your stride, making it easier to run faster. However, you may still be at risk for knee injury and pain from running on a treadmill. Overuse injuries and strains can cause pain and stiffness in your knee joint.
Runner's knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome, is a painful condition that may result from overuse of the knee joint. The condition is caused by misalignment of the kneecap, which causes irritation to the femoral groove where the knee attaches to the femur. Runner's knee causes pain around the kneecap or in the back of the knee, especially when walking, running, squatting or climbing stairs. Women tend to be more susceptible to developing runner's knee as they age. Reduce the number of miles you run on a treadmill and perform knee-strengthening exercises to alleviate pain and reduce your risk of injury.
How you run on a treadmill can impact the health of your knee joints. Poor form can increase the force your knees endure and increase your risk of injury. Always land on the ball of your foot when running on a treadmill. You increase your risk of injury by landing on your heel. Keep your knees slightly bent when running. Avoid straightening your knee completely or locking your knee. Your feet should land under your body, not ahead of your body. Try to run on a treadmill without using the handles. Assume a natural gait to increase the effectiveness of your workout and avoid injury.
Knee Strengthening Exercises
Strengthening the muscles above and below the knee stabilizes your knee to reduce the risk of injury whether you run indoors on a treadmill or outdoors on a street or in a park. Perform 10 repetitions of knee-strengthening exercises, three times a day, if possible. Strengthen your hamstrings on the back of your thigh by performing static contractions. Bend your knee at a 45-degree angle and place your heel on the floor. Press your knee into the floor until you feel the muscle tighten. Hold the press for five seconds and then relax. Tighten your quadriceps on the front of your thigh to help stabilize the knee joint by pressing the back of your knee into a towel. Sit on a bench or on the floor and stretch out your legs. Roll a towel and place it under one knee. Press your knee into the towel until you feel your quadriceps muscle tighten. Hold for five seconds and then relax. Repeat these exercises on both knees.
A treadmill is a practical way to get aerobic exercise indoors when running outdoors is not possible. Treadmills are easier to use than many other types of exercise equipment. You can monitor your heart rate, calories burned and mileage. The surface of the treadmill is more comfortable on your feet and easier on your knees than running on pavement or running paths. There are no obstacles to avoid, such as rocks, loose soil or uneven curbs. You can also vary the incline and speed of a treadmill for an interval training workout.
Robin Reichert is a certified nutrition consultant, certified personal trainer and professional writer. She has been studying health and fitness issues for more than 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health from Clayton College.