Runner’s knee, also known as patellofemoral syndrome, is a broad term used to describe the pain you might experience along the front of your kneecap after physical exercise.
This is a common injury for runners, but can also affect athletes in other sports such as soccer, basketball, and skiing.
In this guide we’ll take a closer look at runner’s knee, including all the information you need to know about the condition’s symptoms, causes, treatments, and preventative measures.
What’s more, we’ll also look to answer a couple of the frequently asked questions.
Symptoms Of Runner’s Knee
The most common symptom of patellofemoral syndrome is a dull ache located inside your knee cap.
This can be incredibly painful, as you might also experience the sensation of grinding, rubbing, or clicking under the patella.
In addition to running and other forms of physical exercise, the symptoms of patellofemoral syndrome can also impact a range of day-to-day activities which involve bending or straightening your knee.
These include going up or down stairs, sitting or standing up from a chair, walking downhill, kneeling, and squatting.
Causes Of Runner’s Knee
There are several causes of patellofemoral syndrome in runners. Listed below are five of the most common.
- Overtraining – running too often can cause a breakdown in muscle tissue as your body needs adequate time to recover. If you continue to follow an intense training program without factoring in enough rest time, you’ll expose your body to injuries like patellofemoral syndrome.
- Trauma to kneecap – sometimes accidents can happen where you receive a direct trauma to your kneecap, Whether this is a fall or a blow, it can often result in a considerable amount of inflammation and discomfort.
- Unbalanced thigh muscles – the quadriceps play a vital role keeping your kneecap in place when bending or stretching the joint. Therefore, if your quadriceps are weak or unbalanced, there’s a higher chance that your kneecap won’t stay in the right place.
- Poor alignment – if any of your bones (from hip to ankle) are out of their correct position, it can put too much pressure on certain parts of your body. For example, a poor alignment of your kneecap will predispose you to patellofemoral syndrome.
- Failing to warm up properly – as is the case with any sport, warm-ups are a vital component of a workout. Failure to perform a proper warm-up before exercise will predispose you to a wide range of muscle strains.
How To Treat Runner’s Knee
While runner’s knee will often get better on its own with enough rest and recovery, there are lots of things you can do to help treat the condition.
Below, we’ve explained five of the most effective things you can do to help relieve the pain and aid recovery.
Rest And Ice
The early stages of the condition will typically involve a fair amount of pain and swelling.
Therefore, the first thing to do is rest your knee as much as possible, and apply ice to relieve the discomfort of the affected area.
One of the most effective ways to treat runner’s knee and speed up the recovery process is to keep your leg elevated when you sit or lie down.
To do this, you can use something as simple as a pillow or cushion.
Stretching and strengthening exercises are particularly useful for treating patellofemoral syndrome due to the fact that the condition can often originate from muscle tissue which is too tight.
It’s especially important to stretch your quadriceps muscles.
Two common types of tape can often be used to help treat runner’s knee: KT tape and Leukotape. The aim of using tape is to pull the skin around your kneecap in a particular direction to bring about a positive change in your running mechanics.
Everyone is built differently, and for some people, the arch in their foot isn’t built for running.
Fortunately, custom orthotics bring the ground to your foot to ensure that the force of impact is transferred correctly up your leg.
How To Prevent Runner’s Knee
If you want to avoid suffering from runner’s knee in the first place, there are lots of preventative measures you can take. Listed below are three of the most important to keep in mind.
- Comprehensive warm-up – take a good ten minutes to properly warm your legs up before heading out for a run. This should include light movements such as jumping jacks, skipping, and jogging on the spot, as well as movements which bring your joints to end-range (high knees, butt kicks, deep squats).
- Good running form – any kind of dysfunction in your running style can result in an injury. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have a physiotherapist assess your running technique and provide suggestions for change.
- Suitable shoes – the shoes you choose will have a significant impact on your running pattern. With this in mind, it’s important to find the right pair of shoes to ensure that the forces from your feet travel up your body safely, thereby reducing the risk of injury.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does A Runner’s Knee Last?
Runner’s knee or patellofemoral syndrome usually takes around four to six weeks to fully recover.
However, it’s worth noting, that due to the complexity of the condition, this period of recovery can sometimes be shorter or longer depending on the individual.
Furthermore, it might be a good idea to see your physiotherapist (if you have one), as they’ll be able to develop a custom plan that might accelerate your recovery.
Is It OK To Keep Running With Runner’s Knee?
If you have runner’s knee, you should avoid any kind of intense running as this can lead to further damage and inflammation around the knee.
This means that intervals, speed work, and long runs should all be avoided.
As a general rule, if your level of pain is higher than three out of ten, it’s recommended to stop running entirely. However, you can still perform some cardio exercise such as low-impact cross training.
The Bottom Line
To conclude, runner’s knee might be an incredibly frustrating injury to pick up, but it’s one which can easily be rectified with the right amount of rest and treatment.
Hopefully, after reading the information in this guide, you’ll be in a much stronger position to recognize and deal with the problem in the future!
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