What is Runner’s Knee Pain?
Runner’s knee pain can encompass a wide range of aching pain around the kneecap that impacts runners and non-runners alike. Runner’s knee, also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, often presents as discomfort that is experienced when bending down, walking downhill or descending stairs.
The pain from runner’s knee may be an indication of bone misalignment or a muscular deficiency; however, it is frequently the result of repetitive movements, high-impact training or blows to the knee. Common symptoms of runner’s knee include swelling around the kneecap and a corresponding clicking, popping or grinding sensation that occurs during movement.
Recovering from Runner’s Knee
Given the connection between runner’s knee pain and overuse or repetitive motion, “RICE” (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is typically the first line treatment. Wrapping the knee for support coupled with the use of NSAIDs like Advil are effective to aid short-term relief of pain or inflammation. In all scenarios, activity should be limited until the condition subsides.
How long it takes for the pain to subside varies by body type and degree of injury. It’s important to not rush back into your running shoes before you are fully healed. Signs of recovery include the ability to fully extend and bend the knee without pain and being able to successfully walk, run or jump without a pain sensation. Your injured knee should be able to demonstrate that it feels and performs like your non-injured knee.
Whatever you do, don’t rush the run. If you try to get back to impact workouts before you’re healed, you could damage the joint for good. Instead, try mixing up your routine with swimming or yoga – just stick to movements that don’t put force or repeated range of motion on the knee.
And when you do ease back into your running routine, be mindful of power movements or actions that require significant range of motion such as lunges.
If you’ve tried the RICE regimen and your pain persists, seek an orthopedic evaluation to ensure things don’t get worse. Your orthopedic specialist will assess your condition to determine if you need medical care such as physical therapy as it can be a successful aid to recovery.
Preventing Runner’s Knee
No one likes being on the sidelines, and there are preventative measures that you can take to reduce your chances of experiencing runner’s knee. Effective prevention tools include the right equipment, the right preparation and the right routine.
Your feet power your stride and overall mobility. Treat them with the care they deserve. Proper fitting shoes with strong support provide a vital foundation for your body whether on the road, the trail or even in the grocery store. Too often, however, we choose fashion over function or ignore the signs of wear and tear.
After a season of running in the Colorado sun, watch for uneven shoe wear. Worn soles can place significant strain on your legs and joints that lead to conditions such as runner’s knee. Don’t wait until Christmas to replace those worn treads; the gift of proper support is a year-round treat all feet should enjoy.
Depending on your pain and level of activity, you may also want to consider orthotics which help address many conditions by providing support for those with high arches or redistributing the energy caused by your foot’s natural pronation.
Once you have the right equipment, the right preparation powers peak performance. Maintaining a healthy weight to help minimize the strain on your body can be a challenging cycle for many but excess body weight has a direct impact on joint performance.
All bodies benefit from a regimen of proper warm up and stretching. Help your joints perform better by fostering flexibility and an adequate warm up prior to putting yourself through the paces.
Strength training builds muscle stability and is also an effective course of preventative action. In addition to the benefits of cross-training, muscle development reduces the strain on your body’s joints and bones.
A well-rounded approach to preparation and full-body training offers maximum protection from overuse conditions. It doesn’t mean that you must be any less intense of a runner. Cross training options can actually help you become a stronger runner while leaving some signs of overuse – such as runner’s knee – behind.
Feeling pain today? Schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic knee specialists to find the right solution for you.