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. Patellofemoral disorder, patellar malalignment, patellofemoral pain syndrome, and chondromalacia, better known as Runner’s knee, is inflammation of the underside of the patella. The patella’s posterior surface is covered with a layer of smooth cartilage, which the base of the femur normally glides effortlessly against when the knee is bent. However, in some individuals the kneecap tends to rub against one side of the knee-joint, irritating the cartilage and causing knee pain.
This knee pain can also cause a tight Iliotibial Band, bursitis, and instability in your core. While biomechanics could be the main issue, 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 get out of alignment, and inflexible hamstrings can put pressure on the knee. Your knee may feel stiff and sore after sitting down for long periods. You might even hear a clicking sound when you bend or extend your knee. Other causes can be 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. Tight hamstring and calf muscles can put pressure on the knee, and weak quads muscles wont support the movement. Just the repetitive force of a normal running stride alone can be enough to provoke it to flare up.
- Pain behind or around the kneecap, especially where the thighbone and the kneecap meet.
- Pain when you bend the knee-Sitting, walking, kneeling.
- Pain while walking down stairs.
- Popping or grinding feeling in the knee. Like the knee is giving out
- Pain towards the back of the knee.
- Very tender around the patella.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome(PFPS) can affect one or both knees. It strikes mostly younger, runners and twice as many women as men, according to the British Journal of Sports Medicine. (Women tend to have wider hips, resulting in a greater angling of the thighbone to the knee, which puts the kneecap under more stress.)
- R.I.C.E!!!! YES, I talk about this a lot but it truly helps injuries and works to speed up recovery and ease pain caused by running. As soon as you return from running, wrap an ice pack, or frozen pea bag around your knee with an ace bandage(seems to be the most effective) prop your foot on a pillow or use the couch to elevate your foot above your heart for easier blow flow and to reduce the swelling. For at least 20 mins
- If you over-pronate, you may benefit from shoe inserts, called orthotics.
- Use an infrapatellar strap, or knee brace. There are MANY different types of knee braces, or straps to help. Some correct the biomechanics of the ITBS and PFPS and others prevent runners knee and keep the pain to a minimum.
- STRETCH and STRENGTHEN! stretching the muscles around the knee like the hamstrings and quads will help relieve the pressure the knee is handling, and make bending your knee less painful when running.
Standing hamstring stretch: Stand facing a chair. Put one heel on the seat of the chair with leg straight out and knee locked. Keeping the back straight, lean forward. Try to hold for 20 seconds
Single quad stretch: Stand and put one hand on a counter top for balance. Bend the opposite leg and grab the ankle with the free hand. Pull gently up and back until the thigh muscle begins to tighten. Hold it for 20 seconds.
Front Thigh(great strengthening): Lie on your back with an ankle weight on your right leg. Fully extend that leg and lock your knee. Keeping your foot relaxed and in a neutral position, lift your leg straight up toward your head as far as you can. Your goal should be to position your leg perpendicular to your body. Return to the starting position.
Here are some more stretches:
- FOAM ROLL!!! Your new friend you love to hate! It is very helpful to loosen those tight achy muscles. Use the foam roller on your quads, ITBS, hamstring and upper calves. The muscles around the knees are the ones you have to strengthen and stretch. If those muscles are strong enough, then the knee doesn’t work so hard by itself =)
- KT TAPE is also very helpful, They have a few knee applications but they have one for runner’s knee:
PREVENT RUNNER’S KNEE:
- Stay in shape and keep a healthy weight.
- Avoid running on hard surfaces, like concrete.
- Wear a knee brace while exercising, if you have had runner’s knee before.
- Make sure your shoes have enough support.
- Keep your thigh muscles strong and limber with regular stretching.
- Use orthotics — inserts for your shoes — if you have flat feet or other foot problems that may lead to runner’s knee.
Runner’s knee is very tricky but easy to treat. Depending on your severity it could be treated at home with strict care. Swim a couple of laps in the pool(NO RUNNING!), or do strengthening workouts at home. I’m sure it’s safe to run once you have no pain when you bend your knee. especially if you try to run or light jog and feel no pain, I believe it’s safe to say you can return to running! yay! =)