What is Runner's Knee and how can I avoid it?

April 23, 2016

Runner’s knee refers to a number of different knee conditions that can affect the keen runner. The most common running injuries to the knee are due to overuse, improper training, inappropriate footwear or a biomechanical problem affecting the distribution of strain. Here at Physiotherapy Matters our specialist physiotherapy team understand the importance of keeping on track and avoiding those troublesome injuries that can affect your running knees.

The common running related knee injuries include:

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Pain is typically located around the knee cap (patella) and is particular aggravated by running down hills and when negotiating stairs. The pain may often be accompanied by a grinding or clicking sensation. This condition is usually caused by an imbalance in the muscles of the thighs with  weaker quadriceps compared to the hamstring muscles. Because the quadriceps control the position and movement of the knee cap during running, poor control can lead to malignment and subsequent pain. Weakness of the hip muscles can also be a contributing factor which can affect knee alignment and this should also be assessed by an experienced physiotherapist.

Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome

This is a common injury in long distance runners and presents as a sharp, burning sensation on the outside of the knee. Although symptoms usually settle after stopping running if the pain persists it may radiate up and down the thigh and be aggravated by walking. The Iliotibial band is a thick, fibrous   extension of the outer hip muscles which travels to attach below the knee on the shin. This muscle may become tight and cause compression against the bone at the side of the knee. Such symptoms are typically triggered by sudden changes in training, running on cambered roads and may also be related to poor biomechanics at the foot.

Patella Tendonitis

Although more common in jumping athletes, patella tendonitis can also affect runners. The patella tendon is an extension of the quadriceps muscle and transfers the load of the muscle to the front of the shin just below the knee. With overtraining or muscle imbalance of the lower legs microscopic damage can occur to the tendon. The pain classically comes on gradually and the tendon is often tender to touch. The tendon will often feel thicker and may be stiff first thing in the morning. Patella tendon pain is worse when running on harder surfaces and when repeated jumping is included in training.

How to avoid these common knee injuries:

1.) Avoid the ‘Terrible Too’s’!

Training with too much intensity, running too many miles and too soon will lead to increased strain on the knee and lead to pain. To reach your goals aim to increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10% each week.
2.)  Look after your feet!

Know your foot type and ensure your training shoes are suitable for you. The wrong shoe can lead to problems so try and seek advice from a specialist running shop who can assess your foot type and even watch you run. Typically running trainers need replacing every 400-500 miles as their shock absorbing capacity wears off.  If you have a biomechanical problem at the feet such as over pronation (fallen arches) this may be contributing to your problem. Here at Physiotherapy Matters a precise examination of the painful area by our podiatrists, combined with bio-mechanical analysis of the foot, ankle and knee alignment, will allow us to evaluate not only what is wrong but also the underlying cause. Treatment can then be tailored to your needs and may consist of simple advice and stretches to advanced bio engineered devices called orthotics.
3.)  Stretch, stretch and stretch some more…

Stretching is an often neglected component of the runners training program. A good stretching regime can go a long way to preventing knee injuries.  Try and make stretches part of your routine and seek advice from a physiotherapist if you are unsure.
4.)  Don’t forgot the core!

Core stability is becoming an increasing focus for many athletes who want to stay injury free. The core muscles are those around the trunk and hips that provide a stable base for our legs to generate power and ensure forces are transmitted to the ground equally.
5.)  Listen to your body

If your running is becoming increasing hampered by repeated knee pain don’t ignore it. Try a short period of rest with R.I.C.E treatment (rest, ice, elevation and compression). If your pains continue however Physiotherapy Matters  team of highly skilled physiotherapist can help you get back on track. Most injuries can be treated successfully with only a few sessions and often simple advice and prescribed exercises are all that is needed to improve your pains
Running injuries can be prevented and with the appropriate training plans and following some of the advice provided here should ensure you reach your fitness goals. If that ‘niggling’ injury doesn’t settle our team of sports injury specialist are here to get you back on track with the most efficient treatment plan to ensure a speedy recovery.
Happy Running!

No matter whether your condition was caused by a sport, work accident or otherwise, we welcome the chance to serve you.

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