Runner’s Knee…what is it and what can you do about it?
If you’ve ever experienced that pain in the front part of your knee – sometimes it’s sharp and sudden, and sometimes it can be dull and achy. This is referred to as runner’s knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome. You may be thinking, what is this?
Runner’s knee usually occurs as a pain in the front of the knee, and just below the kneecap. It can be worse with repetitive activity, going down stairs, or keeping the knee bent for several minutes at a time. It can happen to beginner or seasoned runners, or those that have been doing a repetitive activity that involves a lot of impact. There are several reasons this can occur, but not to worry….there are many simple solutions for this nagging pain!
A few reasons include:
*Tightness and weakness in the quadricep muscle that attaches to the knee, which can affect the pull on the kneecap, leading to pain.
*Overuse or improper mechanics when running, squatting, jumping or any related activity, or, doing too much, too soon.
*Weakness in the glut muscles…one area that’s often overlooked…the gluts are essential in all areas of your daily activity, because they provide major stability to the hips and low back. If they’re not strong enough, then all of the pressure from your activities…running, fast walking, etc…can impact your knees, putting an increased strain on the joint.
*Flat feet or overpronated feet…if the feet have failed arches or are unsupported, this can also place a strain on the knees, which can lead to pain.
*Wear and tear in the surfaces under the kneecap – this can lead to increased grinding in the joint, which can lead to pain. So, it’s important to keep the surrounding muscles strong!
So, if you end up with this, what should you do?
*Initially, give your knee a break from running, and use ice for the first 7 days. About 15-20 minutes of ice is sufficient. You don’t want to completely keep the knee still, but some gentle range of motion exercises are fine to do within this time.
*You want to gradually get back into your routine – doing too much too soon will just re-injure your knee. If you’ve recently began an activity such as running or something that’s high intensity, simply reduce the intensity level. This doesn’t mean you have to completely stop, but reduce your mileage, or walk instead of run, just to give your joints a break. Also, you can try running on a softer surface, so it’s less impact on your knees.
*Work on strengthening the surrounding muscles, to prevent this from coming back. Make sure you include glut, leg, and low back strengthening into your workout routine. The stronger you are in these areas, the more support your knees will have, leading to less pain. Stretch your leg muscles after your activity – this includes the hamstrings, quads, calves, and hips.
Some simple strengthening exercises to start with are:
Clamshells: Lay on your side with both knees bent. Brace your core and lift your knee off of the other (like a clamshell) Keep your ankles together and focus on maintaining good core stability so your hips do not rock back.
Slowly return to start position and repeat. Try 3 sets of 10 on each side.
Bridges: While lying on your back, tighten your lower abdominals, squeeze your buttocks, lift your toes and then raise your buttocks off the floor/bed as creating a “Bridge” with your body. You should be pressing through your heels the entire time. Try 2-3 sets of 10.
Straight leg raise: While lying on your back, raise up your leg with a straight knee. Keep the opposite knee bent with the foot planted on the ground. Try 2-3 sets of 10.
*Be sure to follow Crossroads OPT on Facebook and Instagram, as I’ll be demonstrating these exercises!
If your pain continues, feel free to reach out to me – I can help you figure out why exactly you’re experiencing this pain, and what muscles need to be strengthened…so a proper exercise program can be tailored just for you.
I hope this helps! Thanks for reading, and feel free to post any questions you may have.
Shaheen Siddiqui, MSPT
"We help active adults and athletes get back to doing the activities they love, without relying on painkillers or injections."
Shaheen Siddiqui, PT
Specialist Physical Therapist