How to Treat Your Runner's Knee

Posted in Knee   |   By

Jeremy Gesicki

September 10, 2018

Runner's knee can happen to almost anyone — athlete or not. Most training and exercise routines involves running, either for warming up or conditioning. Running is beneficial for your legs, heart, metabolism, and digestion. Unfortunately, every physical activity comes with associated risks. If your knees aren't entirely lined up correctly, if your running form is off, or if you go running on a preexisting minor knee injury, you are putting yourself at higher risk of developing what is commonly known as Runner's Knee.

Runner running up a hill along along a trail

What is Runner's Knee?

Like many sports injuries, runner's knee is often used as a blanket term for knee pain associated with running. Essentially, anything that causes unusual pressure, tense muscles, or irritated tissues around the kneecap will manifest the symptoms of runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome).

Causes of runner's knee vary widely from preexisting structural problems like misaligned kneecaps and flat feet to overuse and/or trauma to the kneecap. Anything that damages the tissue in and around your knees that is not diagnosed as a specific type of knee injury can be qualified and treated as runner's knee.

Symptoms of Runner's knee

Patellofemoral pain is primarily defined as pain in front of the kneecap or directly behind it. Variants do include pain on the sides or a single side of your kneecap and in the general area around the kneecap.

The pain is almost always noticeable when you are in motion or bending the knee while putting weight on it at any time. Along with running, your knee will hurt when squatting, kneeling, sitting or standing, climbing or descending, and sitting for long periods of time with the knee bent.

Runner's knee pain might be more intense when walking downstairs or moving downhill in any fashion because this puts unique pressure on the bent knee.


Recovering from Runner's Knee

For most people, runner's knee is a major imposition but fortunately, it's not a significant injury. Damage heals quickly on its own. However, because it can relate to more chronic underlying problems, it can also become a long-term issue for some people. It's important to understand your knee health to estimate how long it will take to heal your runner's knee. If you have preexisting knee problems like arthritis, kneecap alignment, or an old injury that never fully healed, expect a longer recovery.

If the pain you're experiencing is caused by a recent fall, overtraining, tight thigh muscles, or inadequate stretching before running, then the symptoms should clear up in a few days to a few weeks with proper treatment.

When it comes to joint pain, the first step is always to go and see your doctor. Get examined and confirm that there are no major underlying factors that need specific treatment. However, if your doctor doesn't think there is any need for surgery or drastic treatment, let’s take steps to minimize the pain you experience during recovery.

Start with RICE

In the athletic world, almost any physical injury can be addressed with one simple acronym: RICE. This stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Sprains, strains, bumps, scrapes, and anything that swells can be treated with RICE in addition to injury-specific solutions. RICE works because it’s a comprehensive approach to bringing down swelling and protecting an injury.

Light Massage

Because runner's knee is almost always damaged tissue around the kneecap, light fingertip massage around the knee can make an incredible difference. It helps loosen up tight muscles and tendons while promoting healthy healing blood flow to the area. Sit with your knee propped and gently move your fingers in small circles all the way around your knee. Apply soft pressure and don't just focus on the painful area. Work the entire area around your knee including calf and thigh muscles to help your entire leg and knee system relax.

Wear a brace or support

There are plenty of options for basic, daily support. Kinesiology tape and compression sleeves are simple, inexpensive solutions to manage low-level pain. Patella straps and braces are your next option. Whatever you choose, if the pain is persistent, don’t hesitate to seek medical advice about your knee pain.

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