Runner’s knee can be devastating for those who love to stay active, especially by running long distances.
In this article, we will cover everything that you will need to know about runner’s knee including how long you will have to wait before you can slip on your running shoes and take to the pavement once again.
What Is A Runner’s Knee?
The term “runner’s knee” is also known as patellofemoral malalignment and refers to any of the various disorders that produce pain around the kneecap, also known as the patella.
Plica syndrome, chondromalacia patella, and iliotibial band syndrome are examples of these diseases.
Running is one of the most common causes of a runner’s knee, but any action that strains the knee joint regularly can develop the illness.
Walking, skiing, riding, leaping, cycling, and soccer are all examples.
It has been found that the condition is more common in overweight individuals and women, especially in middle-aged women.
What Causes Runner’s Knee?
Runner’s knee can be caused by irritation of the knee’s soft tissues or lining worn or damaged cartilage, or strained tendons.
There are many syndromes, conditions, and injuries that can cause these side effects which we will go into in more detail.
Overusing The Joint
Overusing the joint by bending it over and over again or doing a lot of high-intensity exercises can also result in runner’s knee even if it is doing some lunges, the repetition and strain can still damage the cartilage and strain the tendons.
Weak Thigh Muscles
If you have thigh muscles that are unbalanced or weak can cause runner’s knee because they help to keep the kneecap in the correct place so when they can’t perform as they should, the kneecap slips out and causes pain.
Runner’s knee can be the result of a condition that is known as chondromalacia patella which is when the cartilage underneath the kneecap is broken down.
The pain is the result of the thighbone and the knee rubbing together as there is no cartilage left to protect them.
Those who are overweight are most at risk of this condition, but it is also known to commonly affect those who have had an injury to the kneecap such as a fracture or dislocation.
Soccer players, bicyclists, and of course runners are also as more likely to get chondromalacia patella.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome
IT band syndrome is another name for iliotibial band syndrome. It’s a medical condition that produces discomfort on the outside of the knee.
It most typically occurs among athletes, particularly distance runners, or in people who are new to exercise.
The iliotibial band is made up of a thick, strong tissue that stretches all the way down the outside of your thigh, starting from the hip bone and ending at the shinbone.
When the leg is extended and bent, the iliotibial band moves over the top of the thighbone which can cause irritation if it is done repeatedly.
Because of this, it is clearer why this syndrome is seen most commonly in long-distance runners.
Plica syndrome is a condition where one of the folds in the membrane that protects the knee joint becomes irritated.
There are four folds in this membrane that are called plicas, and it is usually the one that is in the middle of the membrane that experiences plica syndrome.
As well as all of these conditions and syndromes, sometimes it’s as simple as sustaining a direct hit to the knee for it to lead to runner’s knee.
Symptoms Of Runners Knee
When suffering from runner’s knee, you will likely feel a dull, throbbing pain that is either behind or around the kneecap and is most prevalent where the kneecap joins the bottom of the femur or thighbone.
Any movements of the knee will likely cause pain whether it be walking, running, or just getting up from sitting in a chair.
You may also see some swelling and feel warmth when you touch around your knee. Grinding and popping are also common when suffering from runner’s knee.
How Long Does Runner’s Knee Last?
It heavily depends on what has caused the runner’s knee to be able to know when it will start to feel better.
Having said this, the general timeline with healing from a runner’s knee usually takes around four to six weeks.
The most important thing to do is not rush the recovery, take things slow and rest your knee as much as you can.
This means that you should skip the gym and not walk or run for long distances until you feel that your knee has healed.
Swimming is a good activity to take up because it strengthens the muscles around the knee joint which will help hold it in the correct place, and it is also low impact which will not affect the healing process.
If you do not take things slow, you are putting yourself at risk of damaging your knee joint for good and will need invasive surgery to fix it.
You will know when your knee has healed when you can straighten and bend it completely without feeling any pain.
Feeling no pain when you walk, jog, run, or jump is another sign that it has healed. If it feels as strong as your other knee that has not been injured, then you are good to go.
Treating Runner’s Knee
For most cases of runner’s knee, it will get better on its own without medical intervention , but you will still need to make some changes during this period.
As mentioned earlier, rest is very important, but you should also ice your knee every three to four hours for two to three days in order to ease the pain and swelling.
Wrapping your knee will give it that extra support to prevent any further strain and will relieve the pressure, making it less painful. You can use a patellar strap, elastic bandage, or sleeves to do this.
When you sit or lie down, keeping the injured leg raised will ease the swelling and if needed, take some over-the-counter pain medication if you are having problems sleeping due to the pain.
You can do certain exercises to help stretch and strengthen the leg around the knee joint.
However, before you do this you should talk to your doctor or physical therapist so that you do not do any exercises that cause further damage to the joint and slow down the recovery.
Whether you attempt these methods and your knee still aches, consult with your doctor to determine if you need to visit a specialist, such as an orthopedic surgeon.
Although it is rare, severe instances of runner’s knee may necessitate surgery.
An orthopedic surgeon can replace or remove damaged cartilage and, in severe situations, adjust the location of your kneecap to distribute stress more evenly throughout the joint.
Preventing Runner’s Knee
After going through the pain and inconvenience of getting runner’s knee, you are probably looking for ways to prevent it from ever happening again.
Sometimes it is unavoidable, but there are still many things you can do to decrease the chances of it happening.
The first tip is to stretch the muscles around the knees before you do activities such as running.
You can do this in a light warm-up with some stretches mixed in, the particular muscles you should focus on during these exercises are the hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves.
Another thing you should do is strengthen the muscles in both your legs and your core. This means that as well as focusing on your quadriceps and hamstrings but also your glutes and core.
It has been found that doing explosive movements helps to prevent knee injuries.
It is also advised to take up lightweight training twice a week for no longer than 15 minutes each time.
Doing this creates a strong structure around your knees that will help support them and take the strain of weight and impact off.
Don’t overwork your knees! It is known as runner’s knee for a reason because a lot of runners suffer from it due to them using their knees repetitively.
Mix up your exercises to prevent any parts from being overworked with cycling, circuit training, and swimming being good options.
Even staying hydrated can do wonders for reducing the risk of runner’s knee because it promotes optimal muscle function.
Drink a big glass of water before you go running and straight away after you get home.
If your knee or knees or sore after a run, try icing them with an ice pack or by sitting in cold water for about 10 minutes.
This has many benefits including reducing inflammation and easing the muscles after an intense workout.
In conclusion, the term runner’s knee is not given to any single condition and instead is used as a blanket term for anything that causes pain around or underneath the kneecap.
There are many things that can cause runner’s knee ranging in severity which is why it is hard to pinpoint how long it will take to recover from it.
Luckily, there are a lot of things that you can do during the recovery period to help it along such as icing the knee, resting, swimming, and keeping it raised as you lie or sit down.
Knowing what it feels like to go through this condition can make most people feel scared to be as active as they were beforehand, but fortunately, there are simple ways to greatly reduce the chances of it from happening again, but you should be aware of your body’s limits either way.