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Running Injuries: Runner's Knee Treatment and Prevention

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Running injuries can blackmail you into completely halting your passion for running. But, what if you can tackle the injury head on and prevent it from happening! Well, our expert advice will guide experienced runners and beginners alike. Knee pain while running or Runner’s Knee is one of the most common injuries that runners experience in addition to other injuries that cause pain in the Achilles, shin, heel, and muscle strains.

Exercises such as strength training will prepare you for injury-free running. Know the causes, symptoms, how to deal with them and to recover fast from the injuries, Runner’s knee in particular.

Knee Pain While Running- What is Runner’s Knee?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) commonly known as Runner’s knee is perhaps the most common running injury. While you are running you may experience a dull or sharp pain in and around the knee, or behind the kneecap. Kneecap pain and these other symptoms are telltale signs of Runner’s knee. Running forces you to put a lot of stress on the area where the patella or kneecap rests on the thighbone resulting in a sudden or chronic pain. Don’t be misled if the pain disappears temporarily for it might resurface to halt your running!

Knee Pain While Running- How to Handle Runner's Knee
Anatomy of the Knee

Runner’s Knee – Causes

Biomechanical reasons and overuse of the knee joint can be primary factors contributing to knee injuries from running and can affect one or both the knees. Stressful exercises or repeated bending can lead to irritation of your knee joint. Movement of your knee cap may not be smooth because of malalignment of the bones which lead to the kneecap resulting in exerting undue pressure on the knee joint and thereby causing pain.

Feet problems such as hypermobile feet, flat feet or high-arched feet, or overpronation can also cause knee pain.

In some cases, weak or unbalanced quadriceps and tight hamstrings also contribute to running injuries as the patella doesn’t get enough support and puts excess pressure on your knee. Quadriceps keep your kneecap in place while you are bending, or stretching your knee joint.

So, weak or tight thigh muscles may just not help in keeping your kneecap in place. Breakdown of cartilage under the kneecap leads to a condition known as chondromalacia patella which also results in knee pain in runners as it reduces shock absorption.

A lack of core strength, poor running form, mobility imbalances and constant increase in mileage result in runner’s knee. Climbing stairs, running uphill or on uneven terrain can aggravate knee pain in runners.

Runner’s Knee – Symptoms

Symptoms of runner’s knee include pain in the front, behind, or around your kneecap, or tenderness or swelling behind or around the patella, or a feeling that your knee’s giving out inside the joint. You may feel pain in the knee whenever you need to bend your knee during activities such as walking, squatting, kneeling, running, or even when you get up from a chair or walk or run downstairs or downhill.

All of these are symptoms of patellofemoral pain syndrome.

Diagnosis for runner’s knee may entail a thorough physical examination by your doctor and accompanied by tests such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scans to assess the condition of your knee joint.

Runner’s Knee – Prevention

Read these tips for preventing injury and knee pain while running.

Knee Pain While Running- How to Handle Runner's Knee
Opt for Shoes with Ankle Support
  • An increase in mileage often leads to Runner’s knee . Do not increase your mileage more than 10 percent in a week and do not suddenly increase the intensity of your workout. You can gradually increase the intensity and the mileage so that your knee gets used to the pressure. In case you are already feeling the pain in your knee, it is advisable to cut down on the mileage immediately to facilitate faster healing and recovery of the knee.
  • Choose to run on grass or dirt surfaces as opposed to concrete or asphalt as these are softer surfaces and the impact on the knee is lesser .
  • Improve your patellar tracking by strengthening your quadriceps, and prevent overpronation by stretching your hamstrings and calves . Exercise regularly to strengthen your thigh muscles and try to avoid activities that require you to bend your knees. Improve your running technique as that may also be the cause for knee pain while running.
  • Make sure you are wearing running shoes with the right fit, good quality, and those that provide ample support or opt for orthotics if your shoes are not helping. Check if shoe inserts can help prevent injury.
  • Warming up and cooling down before and after running goes a long way in preventing running injuries. Get to know your running form to understand how much you can handle per run.
  • Most importantly seek medical help if the symptoms persist for a prolonged period.

To prevent knee pain while running, read more on knowing your Running Form.

Treatment for Runner’s Knee

Knee Pain While Running- How to Handle Runner's Knee

  • Stretching and applying ice packs are basic treatment options for you to handle knee pain at home. Avoid putting ice directly onto your skin and wrap the ice pack in a towel before applying on the injured area. You can do this at frequent intervals until the pain disappears. Consult your doctor if the pain or swelling is severe. Stretching exercises may be recommended by your doctor.
  • Physiotherapy can speed up your recovery.
  • Avoid activities that may put additional stress on your knee. Resting your knee is a must.
  • You can elevate your leg using a pillow while sitting or lying down and wrap your knee with patellar straps, or an elastic bandage for extra support.
  • Your doctor (GP) may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen, or corticosteroid injections to reduce the inflammation and pain.
  • Opt for arch supports or orthotics for your shoes to position your feet correctly and prevent injury and protect your knees while running.

You may have to consult an orthopedic surgeon if the above measures and medications don’t offer any relief. Above all, be patient, stick to your treatment plan and do not change treatment options intermittently as this will prolong the healing process.

Knee pain while running – Recovery Time

While your knee is recovering you need not give up exercise totally. Recovery rates of people vary and depend on factors such as level of injury, body condition and response to treatment. You can try swimming as it is a low impact workout and won’t cause further damage to your joint.

Get back to your old level of intensity in your running workout only if you can bend and straighten the knee without any pain and your knee is now as strong as your other knee and allows you to walk, jog, or jump easily.

Other Running Injuries

If you thought knee pain while running is the only pain to deal with, there are others that you may have to endure!

Learn about 5 Running Injuries that every Runner should know about

Achilles Pain

The Achilles tendon links the calf muscles to the heel bone. Wear and tear in the tendon may cause pain and swelling in the ankle or heel. Applying ice packs, using heel wedges inside your running shoes and resting your feet are a few ways to deal with the pain. If the pain doesn’t subside even after three weeks, you can seek medical help to rule out a tear in the tendon.

Knee Pain While Running- How to Handle Runner's Knee
Achilles Tendon

Shin Pain

You will feel shin pain or shin splints on the front of the leg, from below the knee. Don’t ignore the pain even if it is a dull pain because this can result in greater damage. Apply an ice pack for pain relief and consult a doctor if the recovery is not substantial even after two to three weeks.

Heel Pain

Plantar fasciitis is pain or swelling in the heel or bottom of the foot. This happens when you suddenly increase the mileage or run uphill or run in worn out shoes. Rolling your foot on a bottle of frozen water helps in relieving the pain. Stretching exercises are helpful in dealing with the pain as well. Do not endure the pain for more than ten days and get medical help.

Knee Pain While Running- How to Handle Runner's Knee
Plantar Fasciitis or Heel Pain

Muscle Pain

Runners are affected by strains in the hamstring muscles or calf muscles. This is more often seen in new runners. Applying ice packs and keeping your leg elevated on a pillow can help reduce the swelling.

How to Stay Motivated After Getting Injured

Having a running partner helps you through your injury and keeps you motivated to get back at running. Injury can be very demoralizing for a new runner and might lead to the runner abandoning running altogether.

Setting goals like running for charity or a race will make you work towards it and help you better focus on recovery.

Knee Pain While Running- How to Handle Runner's Knee
Running With a Friend Can Be Motivating

Livingit Tip
Listen to your body and don’t run when you are in pain. Pushing yourself too hard and ignoring injury might worsen your condition rendering you further unfit.

Running injuries like knee pain while running can affect any runner at any level of intensity and can be demotivating. Focus on fast recovery so that you can get back to your running activity as soon as possible. But restart your running workout only if you have recovered enough. Application of cold compress, physiotherapy, and medication will speed up recovery time. You can add muscle strengthening and full-body stretching exercises to your routine to prevent Runner’s knee.

Hope our expert advice helps you to deal with Runner’s knee or other running injuries.

Let us know if you have any alternative remedies for knee pain while running!

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