With the weather getting a bit cooler and the autumn leaves changing, now is a great time of year to go out for a run and take in the scenery. For some runners, especially those who have been a little lax in training or are taking on too much activity at once, pain might become an unwanted part of the routine. Oftentimes, that dull ache around your knee during bending movements can mean the dreaded Runner’s Knee.
Don’t let this common injury keep you down! Here are some tips to get back out and moving again.
- Know Your Enemy
Runner’s Knee, also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, is actually a generalized term for the pain caused by a number of possible knee injuries. This condition is not specific to running – it can also crop up during any activity involving a lot of walking or repetitive jumping. An injury usually develops due to overuse, during a fall, bone misalignment, improper form, or not wearing the right equipment.Symptoms of Runner’s Knee include pain in the knee, especially during bending movements and using stairs. Some people may notice slight swelling, as well as popping or grinding sounds in the knee joint. If any of these symptoms occur, it’s time to back off on your training regimen.
- Listen To Your Body
Luckily, Runner’s Knee injuries are usually easy to treat and may not require medical attention if you catch them early. The trick is to listen to what your body is telling you. Many athletes have a “play through pain” mindset in order to become better or stronger at their sport. Unfortunately, in this case, playing through pain can lead to more serious injuries.If you find that you are experiencing the symptoms listed above, it’s time to stop running for a while. Give your knees the time they need to rest and heal. It is perfectly ok to remain active while resting your knees – focus on other activities, such as swimming, that don’t require stress on that particular joint.Once you notice that you are no longer experiencing pain in your knees, start training again, but slowly. Don’t push the joints too much…that could mean a visit to our office.
- An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
Whatever activity you choose to participate in, there are definitely ways to prevent the development of patellofemoral pain syndrome. The very first step is implementing a good stretching routine prior to activity. One contributor to this syndrome is tight hamstrings, so making sure you stretch and warm up lowers the risk of injury.A proper strengthening routine is also a great way to prevent knee injuries. Exercises that help to strengthen your quadriceps will help to protect your knees from damage during activity.Being very aware of proper form when you are active is also important, especially for female athletes. Unfortunately some women are at a higher risk for Runner’s Knee due to the angle of the upper leg bones meeting the knee joint. Sometimes a natural misalignment can occur, which can lead to an increased chance of injury. Staying in proper form, and using the right gear will help you achieve pain-free training.
- Use The Right Shoes
Whether you are a runner or are playing other sports that put a lot of pressure on your knees, it is important to find the right equipment for peak injury prevention. For runners, going to a store focused specifically on running footwear can make all the difference. This visit will allow a specialist to watch how you run, identify any potential issues with form, and suggest footwear that will correct these problems.Once you have the right footwear, be sure you are replacing the shoes on a regular basis. A specialty store will be able to recommend the exact timing for your equipment, but the lifespan is usually somewhere between 300-500 miles. Old shoes are a definite risk when it comes to knee pain.
- R.I.C.E. The Pain Away
In the event that you start to experience pain, it’s time for the strategy of many an athlete: rest, ice, compression, and elevation (R.I.C.E.). As mentioned above, if you experience pain, it’s time to stop being active for a while. Icing your knee can help – use an ice pack for 20-30 minutes at a time every 3-4 hours, and prop your leg up on a pillow for a little added elevation. Wrapping your knee will help to provide additional support for the joint while you are moving around. Taking an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen can also help ease any discomfort you might be experiencing.
- See A Doctor
If you have tried the strategies above and are still experiencing knee pain, it’s time to pay us a visit. Don’t panic, though – most patellofemoral pain syndrome injuries are easy to treat and don’t require surgery. The doctor will start with a physical examination of the knee and may request that x-rays or other imagery be taken in order to determine the exact problem. Once the cause of the pain is identified, the doctor will recommend treatment options, possibly involving physical therapy or orthotics.
In the rare event that surgery is required, the doctor will discuss all available options for correcting the issue. With new technologies available for minimally invasive surgical procedures and treatments, you will likely be up and moving again in no time!