For many new and experienced runners the runners knee is one of the most common injuries. Recovery from runners knee takes time and extra care while resting the knee as much as possible. If you have runners knee it is important to stay away from running for four to six weeks to allow this injury to heal properly.
What is runners knee?
Without going into too much detail, it is basically a softening of the cartilage of the knee cap. This could be caused by certain mechanical conditions which may predispose you to a mistracking knee cap. Parts of the cartilage could come under either too much or too little pressure. Appropriate intermittent compression which is needed for the removal of waste and supply of nutrition may not be present. This will eventually lead to deterioration of the cartilage. Runners feel pain around the bottom of their knee cap. Pain may also occur after having their knees bent for a long time. Running down hill or walking down the stairs could be painful.
Causes of Runners Knee
- A common cause is over pronation of the feet which put too much stress on the lower leg and twists the knee cap (patella) inward.
- Weak or fatigued quadriceps muscles fail to correctly align the knee cap over the knee joint.
- Tight hamstrings or calf muscles cause improper alignment of the leg increasing stress on the knee cap.
- Incorrect or worn shoes could change your running form which could cause friction under the patella.
- Plain old over training increases damage without enough time for healing.
Runners Knee Treatment
- As said earlier, take time off from running for at least four weeks if you know you've got runners knee. Reducing your running will allow for healing. Avoid running downhill and other movements which involve bending the knees many times.
- Apply ice to the painful area to decrease inflammation and improve blood circulation. Ice for ten minutes every two to three hours.
- Stretching the leg muscles such as the calve muscles, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Tight muscles can result in over pronation and other mechanical problems which could cause increased friction.
- Recovery exercise 1: Straight leg lifts help strengthen and stabilize the knee area. Lying down on a flat comfortable surface like a yoga mat. Have one leg straight and the other slightly bend to take the pressure of your lower back. In the beginning do 5 sets of 10 and build this up to 10 sets of 10.
Recovery exercise 2: After two to three weeks when the pain has gone you can start doing squats. Sinking slowly and in control to an angle of 45 to 60 degrees. Hold for a few seconds before coming up. In the beginning take it easy and do three sets of 5 to 10 repetitions. Stop squatting if you feel pain in your knee.
Recovery exercise 3:Knee bends for strengthening the quadriceps. Strong quadriceps bring improved balance to the whole knee joint. Start by sitting on a chair in good upright posture with your legs bend in a 90 degree angle. One leg at a time, raise your foot so that your leg stretches out straight in front of you. Lower the foot slowly but not all the way down, then raise it up again to straighten your leg. The movement should be controlled and at a slow pace. Your upper legs should be horizontal at all time. start with 3 sets of 15 repetitions and build this up over the course of a few weeks. Continue this exercise even after you return to running to keep the knee area strong.
- Take non steroid anti-inflammatory drugs like (ibuprofen/voltaren/cataflam/mobic) available from your general practitioner or pharmacist for five to seven days.
- Cross-training helps to strengthen different muscles groups for a better balance between upper body, lower body, and opposite muscle groups.
Runners knee Prevention
Preventive measures have been mentioned throughout this page except for one which is orthotics. If you know you are overpronating or you fear overponation it is good to discuss your situation with a professional. Getting a shoe which stabilizes your foot will reduce excessive movement and prevent runners knee. Buy shoes from an expert running shoe retailer and get advice on the shape and stability improvement of your foot.