Runner’s Knee: Causes, Symptoms, and Exercises to Prevent and Treat It

A very common injury that occurs in runners is called a “runner's knee.” In this post, we'll discuss the causes of runner's knee, its symptoms, and exercises you can do to prevent and treat it.

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What Is Runner's Knee?

Runner's knee, also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, is a common injury among runners. It occurs when the cartilage under your kneecap becomes irritated, resulting in pain and discomfort. It's more common in women and people who participate in sports that involve a lot of running, jumping, and twisting.

Causes of Runner's Knee

Runner's knee can be caused by several factors, including:

1. Overuse of the knee joint due to repetitive activities such as running, jumping, or cycling.

2. Weak thigh muscles, especially the quadriceps, which support the kneecap.

3. Imbalanced leg muscles, causing the knee to be misaligned.

4. Flat feet or high arches, which can affect how the knee joint moves.

5. Trauma or injury to the knee, such as a fall or blow.

Symptoms of Runner's Knee

The most common symptoms of a runner's knee are dull, aching pain around the kneecap. The pain may worsen when you're walking up or downstairs, squatting, or sitting for a long time with your knee bent.

Other symptoms include:

1. Swelling around the knee joint

2. Clicking or popping sounds when you move your knee

3. A feeling of instability or weakness in your knee

Prevention of Runner's Knee

There are several things you can do to prevent runner's knee, including:

1. Wearing proper footwear with good support and cushioning.

2. Gradually increasing the intensity and duration of your workouts to avoid overuse.

3. Strengthening your thigh muscles, especially your quadriceps, through exercises like lunges, squats, and leg presses.

4. Stretching before and after your workouts to improve flexibility.

5. Using proper running form, including keeping your knees slightly bent and your feet under your hips.

Treatment of Runner's Knee

If you're experiencing symptoms of runner's knee, there are several things you can do to treat it:

1. Rest your knee by reducing your activity level.

2. Ice your knee for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day.

3.Elevate your knee above your heart to reduce swelling.

4. Take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce pain and inflammation.

5. Physical therapy, which may include exercise to strengthen your lower extremity muscles and improve your knee alignment. Physical therapy will also teach you how to improve the mechanics and efficiency of your running form.

6. Temporarily wearing a knee brace or taping your knee for added support.

7. In severe cases, surgery may be indicated and necessary to repair this tissues in and around your knee joint.

Exercises to Prevent and Treat Runner’s Knee

Here are exercise some exercises that you can do to help prevent and treat runner’s knee:

1. Clamshells: Lie on your side with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and your ankles/feet together. While keeping your ankles/feet touching, lift your knee to the height of your pelvis without rotating the trunk or pelvis backwards. Hold this position for at least 15 seconds. Slowly lower and repeat.

This exercise activates the buttock muscles that align the thigh/knee with hip and the ankle joint. The activation of these muscles allows your bodyweight to be distributed throughout those joints instead of the weight mostly on the knee joint during weight-bearing activities, like running.

2. Squatting: Stand in front of a chair and gently/slowly push your buttocks backwards as you bend your knees until you barely feel the chair underneath you. Do not completely sit down, but slowly stand up to an upright position by pushing your hips/buttocks forwards and straightening your knees. Make sure to maintain a neutral spine position while making sure that your knees are aligned with your second toes.

3. Lunges: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Take a big step forward with your right foot and lower body until your right knee is bent close to a 90-degree angle. Your left knee should almost touch the ground. Then push down through your right heel to straighten your knees to an upright standing position. Make sure to maintain a neutral spine position while making sure that your knees are aligned with your second toes.

Physical Therapy at More 4 Life

If you are experiencing symptoms of runner’s knee, it is important to rest and take care of your knee to prevent further injury. If your symptoms persist or worsen, it is a good idea to seek medical attention.

At More 4 Life, we offer physical therapy services to help you recover from runner’s knee and get back to your active lifestyle. You can request an appointment with one of our experienced physical therapists by calling 314-941-3970.

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