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What Is Runner’s Knee and How Do You Treat It?

If you’re a runner, chances are you’re no stranger to the term “runner’s knee.” However, what exactly is runner’s knee and how do you steer clear of it?

First, let’s nail down some specifics.

Runner’s knee (a.k.a. patellofemoral pain syndrome) is a condition that doesn’t just plague runners. It also affects those who regularly spend time doing activities that put stress on the knee joint like biking, soccer, skiing, etc.

Symptoms of runner’s knee

As you’re probably aware, knee pain comes in all different forms. This type of injury is caused by increased stress between the patella (kneecap) and femur (thighbone). Runner’s knee is characterized by:

  • Pain in front and sometimes behind the kneecap
  • Discomfort when you put weight on your knee
  • Pain walking downstairs or downhill
  • A grinding or clicking sound when you straighten your knee

One of the biggest contributors to runner’s knee is overtraining. Other factors that come into play are poor form, weak surrounding muscles, injury and excess weight. Women are also at a higher risk for developing runner’s knee.

Think you have runner’s knee? Here’s how to treat it

While runner’s knee can be an annoyance, treatment is very manageable. Here are some of the best ways to treat runner’s knee:

    1. Rest. It’s important that you give your knee time to heal. Put ice on your knee and elevate your leg to prevent any swelling.
    2. Use a wrap. This can be a great way to add support and relieve pain. Your knee wrap can be as simple as a small band or a sleeve.
    3. Consider arch support. Your runner’s knee may actually come from poor mechanics. First, make sure that your tennis shoes offer good support. If you are still in pain, we recommend trying inserts for your shoe — you can buy them at a shoe store or have them custom-made.
    4. Ease back into it. When your knee starts to recover, get back to your activity slowly. You want to make sustainable progress. Pushing too hard too fast may make your injury worse.
    5. Stretch and strengthen. There’s a good chance that weak or tight surrounding muscles have a lot to do with your runner’s knee. Be sure to stretch and strengthen your hamstrings, hips and inner thigh muscles.

Best practices to avoid runner’s knee

Let’s say you don’t have runner’s knee but want to do all you can to prevent it. In addition to strengthening and stretching the surrounding muscles, there are a few things we suggest:

  1. Switch up your workout routine. A yoga class or strength session will give your knees a rest and help you to focus on building up other muscles.
  2. Listen to your body. If you start to feel pain in your knee, don’t ignore it! It’s better to give yourself a day or two off from working out than develop an injury that will take weeks to heal.
  3. Focus on form. Poor form can be a big contributor to injuries. If you’re a runner, form especially comes into play. Have a seasoned runner or physical therapist take a look at your form to make sure you’ve got the right motions down.

When to see a professional

If your symptoms last more than two weeks, we recommend getting a professional to look at your knee. A doctor will most likely perform a physical exam and take an x-ray to determine if you have runner’s knee. They will also help identify poor form and other factors that may contribute to your knee pain.

If you have concerns about knee pain and want to know how to improve your running form or routine, we’d love to talk! Schedule your free consultation here. 

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