If you are a devoted runner, chances are you’ve probably dealt with some knee pain before. Knees are accustomed to the constant wear and tear from everyday use, but consistent running or overuse of muscles can irritate the cartilage in knees leading to inflammation and sometimes break down. The breakdown of cartilage leads to other problems, like patellofemoral malalignment or chondromalacia patella. Knee injuries are commonly referred to as “runner’s knee,” though knee pain is also common in other activities that stress the knee joint, like skiing or biking. If you are experiencing pain when walking, climbing, kneeling, or sitting down, you may be showing symptoms of runner’s knee. If you are looking to avoid knee pain, follow these tips.
Many cases of knee pain are due to over-use because athletes try to push themselves too far. They feel that it’s not enough to run, they also have to get in their reps of squats and lunges—all adding more and more strain on their knees. While it’s sometimes rewarding to push yourself during a workout, be sure to rest when you need to and listen to your body. If your knees are irritating you, switch to an arm workout or do some cardio that won’t put as much pressure on our knees, like swimming. After your workout, be sure to ice your knee if you feel it’s necessary.
Using the right gear, including shoes and braces, can help decrease any discomfort you feel your knees. Most runners tell you that the secret to running is quality shoes...and they’re right. The best shoes for running are ones that fit comfortably and properly and are built with proper shock absorption. If you believe your shoes aren’t the problem, you might try using KT-Tape or a brace for extra support and pain relief if your doctor suggests it.
When gearing up for a run, many people skip the warm-up. They might do a couple of light stretches before they start, but not enough to get their body, or knees, truly ready for their workout. Failing to properly warm-up or stretch before a run is what leads to overuse in the knees and initial discomfort. Some areas of focus for stretching should be your quads, hamstrings, and calves. Stretching will help limber your muscles and ligaments to prepare for your run, plus it can also help them build the necessary muscle to keep your kneecap in place when you bend.
Improving your running form will not only improve your technique, but it will also help you avoid knee pain! As you concentrate on fixing your form, focus on your strides. You don’t want your feet to get ahead of you. Stepping past your knees and swinging your legs forward can create a lot of unnecessary shock for your knees. Likewise, you shouldn’t be lifting your knees for a longer stride because it also makes your feet land in front of your body. Your form should have your feet facing the direction you are heading with your feet landing beneath you, mid-stride.
If you are still experiencing runners knee pain, your treatment options may be to take some anti-inflammatory medications, rest and ice it, or, in more persistent cases, ligament or meniscal injury may be suspected. Knee replacement surgery may be indicated if arthritis or cartilage wear progresses to more advanced stages. Schedule an appointment to understand your symptoms and treatment options.