As the name suggests, runner’s knee or patellofemoral pain syndrome is a common ailment among runners. But it can also strike any athlete who does activities that require a lot of knee bending like walking, biking, and jumping. It usually causes aching pain around the kneecap.
What are the causes of runner’s knee?
Runner’s knee isn’t really a specific injury. It is a loose term for several specific disorders with different causes such as:
- Repeated bending or high stress exercises such as lunges and plyometrics can irritate the kneecap or patellofemoral joint. Overstretched tendons may also cause the pain of runner’s knee.
- Direct trauma to the knee, like a fall or blow.
- If any of the bones are slightly out of their correct position or misaligned physical stress won’t be evenly distributed through your body. Certain parts of your body may then be subjected to higher stresses. This can cause pain and injury to the joints. Sometimes, the kneecap itself is slightly out of position.
- Runner’s knee can result from hypermobile feet (a condition in which the joints associated with the feet can be move more than what’s normal), fallen arches, or overpronation (flat feet). These conditions in which the impact of a step causes the arches of your foot to collapse, may excessively stress joints and tissues of the knee.
- Weakness in thigh muscles causes a disproportional load on isolated sections of the knee cap leading to abnormal wear patterns and pain.
What can you do to speed up recovery?
Regardless of the cause of runner’s knee, the good news is, most cases will heal on their own with proper self care. To speed up the recovery time, you could try the following things:
Keep your body weight off the injured knee. You would be surprised how many injuries heal with just a little rest. So, kickback, indulge in a little TV and sip on a milkshake.
Ice the injury
While you are resting, apply ice to your knee. This will encourage healing and keep the swelling down. During your first few days out of commission, try applying it 3 to 4 times a day. Once the pain and swelling start to subside, you can ease off the ice.
Once you rest up and are ready to apply some weight to your knee, try using an elastic bandage to support your knee. They are sold just about everywhere, and always in a pharmacy. They provide support to your knee that it may be lacking due to the injury. The more help your kneecap can get, the faster you can recover.
What more can you do?
Spend as little time on your knee as possible
Avoid stairs or hills, because you will likely feel pain when descending them. If you don’t avoid them or take precautionary measures then you will longer to recover.
You can still do weights in order to train or you can also swim
But do nothing that puts pressure on the knee! If you are doing weights try not to do any free weights that cause you to use your knees to stabilize yourself. Machines would be the best in this case but no leg press or anything that attempts to strengthen your legs because at this point your knee is still very fragile.
It is imperative to speak to your doctor about when the right time is to take this step. If you get back into the swing of things too quickly, you are setting yourself up to re-injure yourself. Make sure to go over all your symptoms you are still having, if any, and what your concerns are if you are still feeling pain by just bearing weight on your knee. Stretch when possible, but make sure that pain is not readily apparent.
The pain should subside after a week and not be noticeable when you are walking. If you can walk without feeling pain and maybe even jog for like 20 steps then you are almost ready to start getting back into running exercises. When the pain has diminished do stationary bikes to work your way back up for about 20-30 minutes to ensure minimal strain. Put the seat high enough to allow minimal bending of the knee. Make sure you stretch before and after every single time. Ice immediately afterward as well for 15-20 minutes and elevate. If after a couple of days of biking you feel no significant change in pain then you may be ready to run again. If you are going to run for the first time do not run on concrete or a place with hills.
Go to a nice track or get on a treadmill and jog slowly for only 10 minutes. If there is still no pain then a couple of days later take it up to three miles if possible. Once you are able to run that distance without pain, you can return to your training.
While running wear a knee’s brace, especially in the beginning and don’t forget to stretch and ice!