Runner’s knee, got its nickname for an obvious and very unfortunate reason—it’s common among runners. The stress of running can cause irritation where the kneecap (patella) rests on the thighbone. The resulting pain can be sharp and sudden or dull and chronic, and it may disappear while you’re running, only to return again afterward. While biomechanical issues may be to blame for runner’s knee, the cause can often be traced back to poorly conditioned quadriceps and tight hamstrings. Weak quads aren’t able to support the patella, leading it to track out of alignment, and inflexible hamstrings can put pressure on the knee. If you want to treat and avoid another bout with runner’s knee, add strengthening and stretching to your routine. Symptoms of runner’s knee include tenderness behind or around the patella, usually toward its center. You may feel pain toward the back of the knee, a sense of cracking or that the knee’s giving out. Steps, hills, and uneven terrain can aggravate runner’s knee.
Pinpointing a single cause of runner’s knee is difficult. Runner’s knee could be a biomechanical problem—the patella may be larger on the outside than it is on the inside, it may sit too high in the femoral groove, or it may dislocate easily. Also, worn cartilage in the knee joint reduces shock absorption, high-arched feet provide less cushioning, and flat feet or knees that turn in or out excessively can pull the patella sideways. There are also muscular causes. Tight hamstring and calf muscles put pressure on the knee, and weak quadriceps muscles can cause the patella to track out of alignment. Just the repetitive force of a normal running stride alone can be enough to provoke an attack of runner’s knee. To prevent runner’s knee, run on softer surfaces, keep mileage increases less than 10 percent per week, and gradually increase hill work in your program. Visit a specialty running shop to make sure you’re wearing the proper shoes for your foot type and gait. Also, strengthening your quadriceps will improve patellar tracking, and stretching your hamstrings and calves will prevent overpronation.
At the first sign of pain, cut back your mileage. The sooner you lessen the knee’s workload, the faster healing of runner’s knee begins. Avoid knee-bending activities, canted surfaces, and downward stairs and slopes until the pain subsides. As you rebuild mileage, use a smaller stride on hills. Consider orthotics if new shoes don’t fix the problem. See a doctor if the pain persists, to rule out another condition.
Ultimately you need to address the imbalances and compensations you make. Including a strengthening routine can help to provide the support for the knee. Healthworks provides structured workout routines as part of membership, including all the instruction you need. Call us on 01789 266633 for details.