Knee Pain after HIIT? Here’s Why

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Knee Pain after HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is not that uncommon. This could be due to various reasons. Individuals often experience knee pain after repetitive loading on the muscles and structures surrounding the knee, especially with poor movement patterning, muscle overloading and/or poor flexibility in the muscles surrounding the knee. Prior injuries at the hip, knee, or ankle may also make you more susceptible to having knee pain due to changes in the lower limb biomechanics. To find out why you are experiencing knee pain after HIIT, read on.

What is HIIT?

High-intensity interval training has numerous health benefits and is widely adopted due to it being a time-efficient way to boost the heart rate and metabolism. It often consists of alternating intervals of high-intensity, high impact exercises such as squats, burpees, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, box jumps with short periods of recovery.

Why does one experience knee pain after a HIIT session?

During ballistic movements, aside from the meniscus that acts as a built in shock absorber, the muscles also take on the role to absorb shock especially during the landing phase of any jumping exercise. They help in decelerating the movement for shock absorption to reduce the amount of force that goes directly to the knee joint.

Reasons you may experience knee pain

– Poor movement patterning
– Decreased strength in lower limb musculature
– Poor flexibility
– A prior history of hip,knee, ankle injury

Poor movement patterning as well as a decrease in strength in lower limb muscles, can cause you to overload certain muscle groups and structures in the knee thus predisposing you to injuries and pain either in the front, middle, outer or back of the knee especially during HIIT where it is fast paced with minimal rest time.

An example would be landing with ‘varus’ or ‘valgus’ knee where the knee falls outwards or inwards during dynamic activities, often secondary to poor movement patterning as well as decreased strength in the hip stabilizers, namely the gluteus medius. With repetitive loading during your HIIT workout, landing with a varus/valgus in combination with other factors that have been mentioned above puts excessive stress over the muscles, as well as the structures in the knee, thus driving the knee pain.

Although poor mechanics doesn’t predict that you would get knee pain, but often this is what patients with knee pain do present in clinic with. However it is also worth noting that people with perfect mechanics may also experience knee pain due to the above factors mentioned.

Other factors include poor flexibility e.g. tightness of the quadriceps and hamstring muscles can add to increased stress being placed on the knee joint. Having a prior history of hip, ankle or knee injuries may also be contributing to increased stress in the knee joint due to altered lower limb biomechanics.

Can you spot the difference?
knee pain after HIIT

Managing knee pain after HIIT

If you notice redness and/or swelling, give your knee a rest for a day or two. Do not conduct high-intensity exercises. Apply an ice pack or wear a compression bandage. You can also elevate your knees above the level of your heart to help reduce the swelling. Obey what your body tells you, don’t push past the pain, especially during the inflammatory stage.

3 Tips to reduce the occurrence of knee pain after HIIT

1) Warm-up and stretch before and after high-intensity exercises

Dynamic stretching involves active movement of your muscles through range. This helps with improving blood circulation thereby decreasing stiffness in the muscles and joints. Allowing the brain to get used to the movement patterns prior to the HIIT program.

2) Build up strength and control

Slow the movement down during the first few repetitions to allow the brain and muscles to get used to the movement. Movement patterns usually goes out the window as you fatigue, which is more common with HIIT. HIIT programs with time limits, thus you need to ensure that you are not pushing yourself beyond your limit. Slow down and keep an eye on your form. Quality over quantity is important to reap the full benefits of the workout as well as prevent future injuries.

Never fully lock your knees, especially during landing. The whole lower limb will need to act as a sponge to reduce the force going through your knee joint. Think about landing on the balls of your feet, lowering the heel down and descending into a squat gently.

3) Rest between sessions

Ensure adequate rest between training to prevent muscle overloading. A proper training program would include rest days as recovery days are just as important as training days. Rest days are important to allow the body time to recover and prevent overuse injuries from overtraining.

Seek help from a Physiotherapist for Knee Pain after HIIT

If the knee pain persists despite trying the tips above OR you are experiencing difficulties with normal day to day activities such as walking, do book a session with our Physiotherapist to get a proper assessment done so that we can find out the underlying cause that is contributing to your pain.

Advice and strengthening exercises will be tailored to your individual condition, needs and functional level. We aim to reduce pain and look at the long term goal of reducing the risk of injuries or recurrence. This includes correcting your form during your workouts to put less strain on the already irritated structures, strengthening of the lower limb muscles targeted to your complaints, as well as managing your load to ensure you are not over training with your HIIT workouts.

To consult with our team of physiotherapists regarding knee pain or general physiotherapy, simply contact us to book an appointment.