More and more people are opting for running as a form of recreation. We became even so overwhelmed by the “euphoria of running” that people start to suffer from overload injuries. Especially runner’s knee is one of the most common running injuries.
Indeed, the accessibility of this type of recreation is one of the main advantages. In addition, it allows us to move in nature and discover our abilities to relax. With running we are reducing body weight and live a healthy lifestyle.
Unfortunately, running is a form of activity in which many injuries occur, the most common is the runner’s knee.
Recognize the symptoms of a runner’s knee
Where does runner’s knee hurt?
The most common pain occurs during running in the front and lateral side of the knee.
The pain that is present can be sudden and sharp, in some it is even chronic, which means that it is present over a long period of time.
Runner’s knee in both knees is very common
The pain syndrome can affect one or both knees. Younger recreational runners suffer the most from the runner’s knee.
How does runner’s knee happen?
Tendons and ligaments attach your kneecap to your shinbone and thigh muscle. When any of these components fails to move properly, it can cause your kneecap to rub up against your thigh bone.
Problems with biomechanics will be the first to be highlighted by an expert as crucial for this type of pain. However, it is also necessary to focus on the front and back thigh muscles. The first ones are often not strong enough, while the hamstrings can be overstretched.
Women are more likely to suffer from runner’ knee syndrome
The British Journal of Sports Medicine has done research and proved that pain occurs more often in women than men. Women basically have wider hips, which increases the angle between the femur and the knee.
Why is this crucial? The greater the angle between the femur and the knee in the knee flexion motion, the greater the stress on the patella.
Symptoms of a runner’s knee are pain in front of, behind, or around the patella, and most commonly they report pain on the outside of the knee. Some also feel pain in the back or report cracking in the knee or joint instability.
Further stress can make the situation worse. Walking down a hill (stairs) and walking on uneven surfaces are not recommended.
Several causes of pain are known
There are several known causes, which lead to a painful condition. This can be overly high and unstable patella, weak quadriceps muscles, a pronated foot, overstretched hamstrings…
Patelofemoral pain syndrome
In patellofemoral pain syndrome, running stress causes irritation at the spot where the patella is in contact with the femur. There is improper sliding of the patella on the inside or outside of the knee. If you have your foot turned inwards, the position of the knee changes, starting to pull the patella to the outer (lateral) side outside the correct position.
Iliotibial tract syndrome
The iliotibial tract is a long tendon that runs all the way from the pelvis to the upper tibia. This pain syndrome is characterized by pain on the outside, side of the knee, just above the knee gap.
It is common in runners who have O-shaped knees (knee varus).
It usually occurs during running when you are bending and extending your leg. If you were to stop a video showing a man running, you could see that the tendon of the iliotibial tract rubs against the femur when in a bent position – more precisely 30-40 degrees of flexion.
Reduce pain with runner’s knee stretching
The quickest way for a doctor or physiotherapist to determine if it is a runner’s knee is to perform a clinical test – while squatting puts pressure on the iliotibial tract, which causes pain.
This is not always reliable, so one may also perform an ultrasound examination or magnetic resonance imaging.
Atrophy of the medial quadriceps is often present
An X-ray is also useful, but only in cases where the damage originates from bone structures. X-rays do not show changes in the soft tissue.
How do you fix runner’s knee?
The answer is simple – with physiotherapy.
Physical therapy and exercises for runner’s knee
The treatment of such injuries takes quite a long time. Some even said, “Once it starts to hurt, you can’t get rid of that devil.” Those who took rehabilitation seriously and followed the instructions of physiotherapists are today running normally and painlessly again.
Reducing physical and sports activities is crucial to improve the injury. This stops the further formation of micro-injuries on the tendons, accelerates the healing and restoration of soft structures. Summing up, this stops the pain.
Immobilization of the knee joint is not recommended as it causes muscle atrophy and deterioration.
When the pain subsides, then the “physio” part begins. This means strengthening and stretching the muscles in combination with other physiotherapy devices, such as therapeutic ultrasound, analgesic electrotherapy, Tecar therapy. Extremely positive treatment effects are also by using ESWT therapy.
Runner’s knee stretching
We strengthen the quadriceps muscle, especially the medial part with moderate load during isometric and eccentric exercises. Remember the gluteus medius, which is also involved in movement.
We stretch the hamstring muscles and the side of the thigh. But how?
Repeat 3 times with a delay of 30 seconds. Make sure your knees are fully extended. Also, make sure that you are not rocking, but maintaining a calm position.
Also stretch the lateral part of the thigh (iliotibial tract) by yourself or with the help of a foam roller or a ball.
More and more people are opting for running as a form of recreation. Unfortunately, many injuries can occur when running, including the runner’s knee.
Women suffer from this pain syndrome more often than men, due to their anatomical structure. Let me mention that the runner’s knee is typical for recreational runners.
There can be several causes, all of which lead to pain in the lateral part of the knee joint. This happens when the leg is in a bent position and the iliotibial tendon rubs against the femur.
The treatment lasts for a longer period of time. Perseverance and discipline are required to regularly perform the prescribed active and stretching exercises. Physiotherapist can speed up rehabilitation with physiotherapy equipment/devices, so a visit to a physiotherapist will not be in vain.