Did you know that runner’s knee accounts for around 20% of all running injuries? Runner’s knee, also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), is a common problem among athletes who have to bend their knees frequently. If you run long miles, you’re putting a lot of pressure around your kneecaps. The physical stress can cause sharp or persistent, dull pain below the kneecap and the pain usually comes and goes.
What Causes Runner’s Knee?
Surprisingly, PFPS tends to affect younger runners and it’s twice as common for women than men. It can happen if you run long distances consistently, or if you fall on your knee directly. If you have weak or unaligned quadriceps muscles, it can also result in PFPS as your kneecap is not supported properly while you run.
It’s hard for doctors to identify the knee pain even with X-Rays or MRIs because there’s no obvious structural injury. You’ll usually notice pain around your kneecap during or after your run. The pain usually goes away with rest but it comes back occasionally and gets worse over time.
How Can You Treat Knee Pain?
Many runners would neglect their knee pain because it often comes and goes. If you already notice a persistent knee pain, you should address the problem as soon as possible so it doesn’t turn into a chronic pain issue.
Reduce Your Mileage
If you start feeling knee pain after running for 3 miles, then it’s time to stop and rest. Run only as long as your knees allow. If you run every day, you might also consider cutting back to running every other day until your knees recover. When you’re resting, try to elevate your legs on a pillow to reduce stress on the knees.
Avoid Bending Your Knees
When you go for a run, stay on a flat course and avoid any slopes. Also, stay away from other aggressive knee-bending exercises like biking until your knee pain subsides.
Stretch and Strength Your Muscles
Stretch your hamstrings and calves daily. Instead of standing up, lie flat on your back. Use your hands to pull one leg up toward you while keeping it straight. You can also use a long towel or a rope to hold your stretched leg in place for 30 seconds each. Repeat each side 3 times.
If your knees start to recover, you can try to strengthen your quadriceps by doing partial squats. Hold onto a flat surface for your squats so you don’t over-stress your knees. When you’re physically ready, you can transition into doing full squats to build up stronger thigh muscles.
Replace Your Running Shoes
Shop for a few pairs of orthopedic shoes that fit your feet comfortably. The right pair of shoes can help with the position of your feet and minimize your risk of getting further injured.
Consult Your Doctor
If your knee pain persists, see your doctor for a full evaluation. Your doctor can refer you to a physical therapist who can put you in a recovery routine that’s more effective. For more severe pain, your doctor might also recommend injecting corticosteroid to reduce inflammation around your kneecaps.
Recovery takes patience and time. Don’t rush back into your old routine if you still feel the knee pain while you walk or run. Listen to what your body is telling you and take care of it properly so you can run farther and better down the road.