Healthy knees are easy to take for granted, but the second you injure them you realize how dramatically you rely on them to do just about everything from getting out of bed to driving the car. While some injuries are serious and may need professional medical attention, others can be healed through home remedies. This week we are taking a look at a common knee ailment: Runners Knee.
What is runner’s knee?
Runners knee, also called patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), is caused when the kneecap doesn’t run smoothly along its vertical track (trochlea) as the knee bends and extends. This results in abnormal wear and tear of the joint and can lead to osteoarthritis over time.
How does the kneecap become misaligned?
Often, weak thigh muscles and a lack of foot support are the contributing factors. Strong thigh muscles keep your kneecap in place so it glides smoothly. However, running leads to the development of strong hamstrings (muscles at the back of the thigh) creating an imbalance as the quadriceps are less developed. The strength imbalance can be enough to pull the kneecap to the side and cause misalignment.
At the same time, your feet may be making incorrect movements as you run. You may be rolling your foot inward or turning it outward too much with each stride. Look at the soles of your running shoes to see if you have an uneven wear pattern developing.
If you have greatly increased your distance, hill, or speed work recently, you may think about cutting it back a little. Runner’s knee can be aggravated by overuse. Try to run on flat, straight surfaces whenever you can. Running on the side of banked roads or curved tracks causes one leg to essentially be shorter than the other, therefore creating pressure on the knee. If you can’t avoid it, you can balance things out by letting the other leg be the “short” one on second half of your run. Run on the other side of the road, or reverse your direction on the track.
What does it feel like to have runners knee?
If you have runners knee, you may feel pain behind and around you kneecap, particularly where the kneecap and thigh bone meet. You may have pain when you bend your knee or while kneeling, running, squatting, and sometimes even sitting. You may also notice that your pain is worse as you walk downstairs or downhill. Your knee may swell, and it’s common to have popping or grinding sensations in your knee.
How can runner’s knee be avoided?
If you notice pain in your knee, cut back on your distance. Since overuse is a cause of runner’s knee, cutting back helps you reduce the knee’s workload so the knee can begin to heal. Continuing to run through the pain may make your condition worse and eventually force you to give up running completely. Also, consider trying strengthening exercises for your quads and hips, to support proper gait mechanics.