Runner's knee, also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome is an unfortunate, yet common ailment that affects runners. Runner's knee is mainly caused by an irritation localized where the kneecap sets upon the thighbone. In fact, at approximately 20 percent of all running related injuries, PFPS is the most common running injury.
If an individual fears they may be suffering from runner's knee, there are some key symptoms to keep in mind.
- a grinding feeling within the knee
- pain which seems to increase when walking up or down stairs
- localized swelling in the knee area
- a discomfort behind the kneecap area
As with any ailment, there are multiple issues, which can cause an individual to suffer from runner's knee.
- a specific injury to the knee (i.e. an accident, fall, etc.)
- underdeveloped quadricep (thigh) muscles
- overuse (i.e. running too many miles, lack of rest, etc.)
- foot issues such as over-pronation
- any misalignment of bones causing discomfort in the joints
Depending on what ailment an individual suffers from, fixing the problem can be simple and cost effective, or can be more difficult and costly. For example, underdeveloped thigh muscles can simply be addressed by learning and executing proper exercises to strengthen this particular area. On the other hand, foot issues may require orthotics, which can be pricey.
With any medical issue, it's important to allow a professional to diagnose the problem, and then to offer treatment options. Thankfully, most cases of runner's knee (unless quite severe) can be treated in a fairly simplistic manner. Simply remember the acronym RICE.
- R = rest the knee area
- I = ice the swollen or painful area (approximately 20 minutes every 3 hours for a couple days)
- C = compress the knee area with wraps, bandages, etc.
- E = elevate the knee upon a cushion or pillow to increase blood flow
Beyond RICE, there are a couple more ways to promote the healing process. For one, it's advisable to take some anti-inflammatory pain medicine. These will help with the swelling and pain, which accompanies runner's knee. These should be taken sparingly, as drugs such as Advil, Motrin, etc. can have nasty side effects such as ulcer formations. As always, when in doubt ask your doctor for the proper amounts.
Another way to help the healing process is a good strength and stretching regimen. In fact, one often overlooked area are the hips. Many individuals who suffer from runner's knee have weak hip abductors. If this is the case, adding some core work to your exercise routines will help in strengthening this often ignored area. Overall, not only will a strength regimen be beneficial to strengthen any weak or underdeveloped areas, but the stretching will increase flexibility and elasticity in the knee area, as well.
Luckily, patellofemoral pain syndrome is an injury, which is usually alleviated easily. Only the most severe cases require surgery. While it certainly can be debilitating for a time, with the proper diagnosis and rehabilitation program, the pain should subside allowing the individual to slowly get back into the groove of running again.