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Last year, I had an interesting conversation with Dr. Reed Ferber, who runs the Running Injury Clinic at the University of Calgary. He’s a big believer in the role of hip strength in promoting proper biomechanics — in one seven-month study he performed, 92 percent of the injured runners who reported to his clinic had abnormally weak hip muscles, and 89 percent of them improved with a four- to six-week hip strengthening program. (Read more about his research, and the exercises he recommends, in this Jockology column.)
I mention this in light of a study that researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago are conducting, trying to see if strengthening hip muscles can relieve pain and slow the progression of arthritis in the knees.
The exercises focus on strengthening the hip abductor muscles, such as the gluteus medius, a broad, thick, radiating muscle that helps to stabilize the pelvis during ambulation. In patients with osteoarthritis in the knees, these muscles tend to be weak, causing the pelvis to tilt toward the side of the swing leg when walking, instead of remaining level with the ground, which increases the load on the knee joints. Strengthening these muscles helps the pelvis and the knee remain in better alignment, and thereby lessens the load.
Sounds like the same principles at work — I’m sure Dr. Ferber will be watching carefully to see the results of this study.