Runner’s knee is such a common running injury, we gave it a name. But, at least runners knee treatment, in most cases, can be handled a home.
Here’s an interesting fact: 40 percent of running injuries are knee injuries. That’s a pretty big percentage. The medical term for Runner’s knee is Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), but since that’s a mouthful, let’s stick with Runner’s knee.
What Does Runners Knee Feel Like?
The pain in your knee can vary from feeling sharp and sudden, to dull and chronic. Pain or tenderness is usually felt behind or around the patella, usually toward its center. (The patella is your knee cap, that big round bone in the front of your knee.) You may also feel a sense of cracking or that your knee is giving out. If your knees crack normally when you bend or squat, that is not runner’s knee.
The pain may not appear while you’re running, but will rear it’s ugly head after exercising. It can feel especially painful going up or down stairs or squatting. Running on hills and uneven terrain can also aggravate your Runner’s knee. In short, if you have pain around the knee and you’re a runner, voila, runner’s knee. (It can be something else, so it’s best to check with your doctor, just in case.)
Who is Prone to Runner’s Knee?
Though anyone can develop Runner’s Knee, it’s more common when you are younger, and occurs in twice as many women as men. Unfair, I know, but as women generally are built to have wider hips, this can cause the thighbone to be angled to the knee (not aligned directly), putting more stress on the kneecap.
If you tend to walk with your toes pointed outward or inward slightly, instead of straight, you are prone to eventually needing runner’s knee treatment.
Underlying Causes of Runner’s Knee
Though it seems like it only has to do with the knee, the cause of Runner’s knee can be often be due to muscle imbalances, tightness, or bad conditioning. Weak quadriceps and tight hamstrings are a common factor. Weak quads aren’t able to support the patella, which results in your kneecap becoming out of alignment. Inflexible hamstrings can also put pressure on the knee contributing to the problem. High-arched feet can also contribute to Runner’s knee due to less cushioning. Flat feet or knees that turn in or out excessively can pull the patella sideways causing the kneecap to be misaligned,which can also contribute.
Even the slightest bit off on anything that I’ve described can cause you to need runner’s knee treatment. Afterall, you’re taking thousands of steps during each run that can increase the pain. So, now that you’ve got Runner’s knee, how do you treat it? The answer is strengthening and stretching.
Runners Knee Treatment
Strengthening and Stretching
Weak or inflexible quads and hips are a particular source of knee pain, but upping your strength and flexibility throughout these areas will help both ease the pain and improve your form once you return to your normal training. For runners knee treatment, try these exercises.
Stand in a staggered stance, your left foot in front of your right, 2 to 3 feet apart. Place just the instep of your back foot on a bench or chair. Pull your shoulders back and brace your core. Lower your body as deeply as you can, keeping your back foot on the bench. Keep your shoulders back and chest up through the movement. Hold for 10 seconds, then return to starting position.
Standing Hip Exercise
Attach one end of the resistance band to a table leg or something steady. Place the other side of the resistance band around your unaffected leg’s ankle and balance with a small amount of knee bend on your affected leg. Pull the band away from the body about 12 inches, keeping your upper body straight and maintaining your balance without letting your foot touch the ground.
Side-Lying Leg Lift
Lying on your side, one arm under your head, and one arm in front of your body, palm facing down on the mat. Raise your top leg, and hold, then slowly lower your leg.
This exercise will hit both your quads and hips, and is a great one for Runner’s knee.
Lie facedown on the floor with a foam roller positioned above your knee. Roll your body back and forth up to the top of your thigh.
Heat and Ice
When recovering from any injury, heat and ice is always a big help with healing. Post-run icing also provides relief in the early stages of Runner’s knee. Heat works best once the injury is in the process of healing.
Prevention and Runners Knee Treatment
There’s a few things you can do to prevent Runner’s knee. Stick to running on softer surfaces. Going too hard too fast can cause your Runner’s knee to flare up, so keep mileage increases to less than 10 percent per week, and gradually increase hill work in your program. Proper shoes are also really important. Make sure you’re wearing the proper shoes for your foot type and gait.
Once your knee is pain free, don’t just drop the strength and stretch exercises completely, or you’ll soon be back to needing more runners knee treatment. Keep the exercises in your routine three times a week to help keep your Runner’s knee at bay.
At the first sign of pain, cut back your mileage. The sooner you lessen the knee’s workload, the faster the healing can begin. Avoid knee-bending activities and downward stairs and slopes until the pain subsides. As you rebuild mileage, use a smaller stride on hills.
If pain persists or is accompanied by swelling, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor. You may also need to consider orthotics to help with arch support.
Runners knee treatment should be completed by your doctor or physical therapist if pain does not subside.