Runner’s Knee: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

“Runner’s Knee” is a term for different knee problems causing pain around the kneecap, usually due to activities like running. These problems include:

  1. Anterior Knee Pain Syndrome
  2. Patellofemoral Malalignment
  3. Chondromalacia Patella
  4. Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Harvard Medical School says Runner’s Knee is more common in middle-aged women and overweight people.

What Are the Symptoms of Runner’s Knee?

Runner’s knee usually comes with these common signs:

  1. Pain in and around the kneecap when you’re active or after sitting with bent knees for a while. This pain can sometimes make your knee feel weak or unstable.

  2. You might hear a rubbing, grinding, or clicking noise in your kneecap when you bend and straighten your knee.

  3. The kneecap itself may feel sore when you touch it.

Remember, runner’s knee symptoms can be similar to other conditions, so it’s important to see a doctor for the right diagnosis.

What causes runner’s knee?

Runner’s knee can happen due to different reasons, such as:

  1. Problems with how your kneecap is aligned.
  2. Doing too much training or putting too much strain on your knee.
  3. Getting injured or experiencing trauma.
  4. Having weak thigh muscles.
  5. Having tight hamstrings or Achilles tendons.
  6. Not having enough support for your feet.
  7. Walking or running with your feet turning inward while your thigh muscles push your kneecap outward.

How is Runner’s Knee Diagnosed?

To find out if you have runner’s knee, your doctor will:

  1. Ask about your medical history.
  2. Conduct a thorough physical examination.
  3. May order blood tests, X-rays, an MRI scan, or a CT scan if necessary.

How to Treat Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee can often be treated without surgery, and your doctor will customize your treatment based on the cause. Here are the steps for treatment:

  1. Rest: Give your knee time to heal by avoiding activities that stress it.

  2. Ice: Apply an ice pack for up to 30 minutes at a time to reduce pain and swelling. Avoid using heat.

  3. Compression: Wrap your knee with an elastic bandage to control swelling. Not too tight, though, to avoid issues below the knee.

  4. Elevation: Use a pillow under your knee when sitting or lying down to prevent more swelling. If it’s swollen, keep your foot above knee level and your knee above heart level.

  5. Medication: Consider over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen for pain. Consult your doctor if you have health issues or take other drugs.

  6. Rehabilitation: After pain and swelling decrease, your doctor may suggest exercises or physical therapy to regain strength and motion. You might use knee tape, a brace, or orthotic shoe inserts for extra support.

  7. Surgery: In severe cases, surgery may be needed to repair damaged cartilage or realign the kneecap.

Follow your doctor’s advice for a successful recovery from runner’s knee.

How to Prevent Runner’s Knee

Here are some easy steps to help you prevent runner’s knee, as recommended by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:

  1. Stay Fit: Make sure you’re in good shape and talk to your doctor about weight loss if you’re overweight.

  2. Warm-Up and Stretch: Before running or any knee-stressing activity, warm up for five minutes and do some stretching exercises. Ask your doctor for specific knee stretches.

  3. Gradual Training: Avoid sudden increases in your workout intensity. Slowly build up your training to prevent overexertion.

  4. Choose the Right Shoes: Invest in quality running shoes with good shock absorption. Make sure they fit well and replace worn-out shoes. Consider orthotics if you have flat feet.

  5. Maintain Good Form: Keep your core tight, avoid leaning too much forward or backward, and keep your knees slightly bent while running. Opt for softer running surfaces, not concrete. Use a zigzag pattern when going uphill.

By following these steps, you can lower your risk of getting runner’s knee and have a more enjoyable and healthy running experience.

When Will My Knee Feel Better?

Recovery time varies from person to person and depends on your unique body and injury. During your recovery, it’s important to be gentle with your knee. You don’t have to stop exercising altogether, but consider trying a new activity that won’t strain your injured knee. For example, if you usually jog, you can switch to swimming laps in a pool.

Remember not to rush the healing process. Trying to return to your regular exercise routine too soon can cause long-term damage to your knee. Only go back to your previous level of activity when you meet these criteria:

  1. You can bend and straighten your knee without feeling any pain.
  2. There’s no knee pain when walking, jogging, sprinting, or jumping.
  3. Your injured knee feels as strong as your uninjured one.

When should you see a doctor for Runner’s Knee?

If you have Runner’s Knee, you can usually handle it on your own. But it’s crucial to visit a doctor if:

  1. Your knee pain lasts for more than a few days.
  2. You think your knee might be injured.

Seeing a doctor in these situations helps you get the right diagnosis and start the appropriate treatment for Runner’s Knee.

FAQs About Runner’s Knee

1. How can I fix runner’s knee?

To treat runner’s knee, start with non-surgical methods: rest from running, use ice and anti-inflammatory meds, consider knee protection like taping or bracing, think about orthotics, and consult a physical therapist for rehab.

2. What does runner’s knee feel like?

Runner’s knee feels like a dull pain in the front of the knee with rubbing or grinding sensations, sometimes accompanied by a clicking sound around the kneecap.

3. How long does it take for runner’s knee to heal?

Typically, it takes 4 to 6 weeks to recover from runner’s knee. Following treatment recommendations can speed up healing.

4. Will runner’s knee go away on its own?

Yes, but stop running until the pain goes away completely. Follow treatment guidelines and ease back into running with shorter distances to avoid a relapse.

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