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  • Writer's pictureMichael Liougas

How To Treat Runner's Knee (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome)

Runner's knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome, is a painful condition within the knee that runners and athletes alike often experience. It occurs from a malalignment of the patella, and though it is somewhat easy to disrupt this alignment, getting the knee back in place is equally as plausible. Runner's knee is often treatable with rest, physiotherapy, and a few minor lifestyle changes.

Symptoms of Runner's Knee

One of the most commonly experienced symptoms is pain around the front of the knee. This pain may also spread to the back of the knee, often worsening during activities like running or going up and down stairs.

Any form of bending or strain to the knee will aggravate the pain, making this condition a frustrating one to endure. Runner's knee pain is often described as a dull ache at rest, increasing to a sharp sensation when moving or performing activities.

In addition to the acute pain experienced around the knee joint, swelling and tenderness are also common to experience with this condition. This swelling can limit mobility in some cases, as it often blooms at the front of the knee.

Popping or grinding sounds and sensations, or knee crepitus, are also commonly experienced with runner's knee, as well as a knee(s) that becomes stiff and uncomfortable after long periods of sitting. The pain and stiffness from this condition can cause feelings of instability and an unbalanced gait, which will often aggravate the condition further.

Treatment Options For Runner's Knee

Fortunately for athletes and physical labourers alike, there are many different ways to treat runner's knee, usually depending on the nature or severity of each case. One of the first steps to take in treatment is resting the affected knee. Unlike some other joint or muscle conditions, runner's knee only benefits from proper rest.

Ensure that your knee is elevated and iced, especially if experiencing swelling and tenderness around the area. A good bout of rest will allow your body to heal and recover from strain or injury, which is why planning rest days within running or fitness schedules is vitally important in preventing strains that lead to runner's knee.

The patella glides between the femur and the lower leg, and if this course swerves out of line in any way runner's knee can take hold quickly. Knee braces or sports tape work to better position the knee cap and mitigate an erroneous glide. This gentle readjustment offers knee support that stretches to the entire leg and lower body, increasing overall comfort when running or doing other physical activities. Knee braces can be custom fit to your knee or purchased at a store, though custom knee bracing is only recommended after following the advice of a professional physiotherapist.

Feet are the first part of the body to contact the ground and diffuse shock and weight. When running, improper form can cause a chain of problems that snake up the lower body, but the first area to suffer from improper running techniques or even an incorrect walking gait will be the knees. Purchasing quality running shoes or custom orthotic shoe insoles will often be an excellent mitigator for knee problems stemming from the feet.

The kneecap glides painlessly with the help of muscles in the upper leg, glutes, and core, and without adequate strength in these areas, runner's knee will plague a sufferer indefinitely. Physiotherapy works to strengthen these muscles with gentle exercises, providing the knee with elevated support and bracing to return it to its complete, painless range of motion. Physiotherapists will also assist in correcting improper running strides or walking gaits, and retrain the muscles around the knee to flex and move in a way that is safe and supportive.

What Can Cause Runner's Knee?

As the name suggests, running can damage the knee if proper rest days and safe pacing are not maintained. Additionally, beginning vigorous activity without prior stretching can cause muscle tears and weakness, lessening the knee's support and elasticity. Stretching is vitally important in maintaining the health of all muscles and tendons in the lower body.

Excessive weight may also cause runner's knee, as the knees bear high amounts of pressure with every step. If applicable, reducing body weight can help relieve undue pressure on the patella and its surrounding tissues.

Injuries to the lower body also directly affect the knee and its surrounding tissues as they risk altering the knee's inner workings.

If you suspect you have runners knee feel free to give us a call for a free over the phone consultation where we can guide you on the next best course of action.

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