Have you ever felt sudden, prolonged pain in or around one or both of your knees? That’s truly alarming especially if it happens abruptly. Before you jump to a conclusion that will only worsen your anxiety, let’s get something straight first—that’s probably just a case of runner’s knee, a broad term that describes a vast range of pain you feel in your knees. You can go to physio in Grafton or Newmarket, such as Institute of Sport Physio, to confirm if what you are experiencing is indeed a runner’s knee.
Two Types of Runner’s Knee?
Runner’s knee is classified according to the area of the knee that’s experiencing discomfort. Generally, there are two major types—the Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS), also called iliotibial band friction syndrome, and the Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS).
The ITBS causes pain on the iliotibial band, the longitudinal fibrous reinforcement of the fascia lata located on the side of the knee. The primary function of this tendon is to extend, abduct, and laterally rotate the hip. It also helps stabilise the knee to prevent it from bending sideways. When you are suffering from ITBS, either the tendon or the muscles around it are in pain. This type of runner’s knee is very common among actual runners and other athletes.
PFPS, on the other hand, occurs around or under the knee cap. Unlike ITBS, this is more common among non-athletes, especially because it can be experienced both by people who have manual jobs and those who sit for a living.
What causes runner’s knee?
One thing you should know about runner’s knee is that it’s neither exclusive to runners nor acquired solely from running. Because of the broad nature of runner’s knee, its causes may also vary. In fact, the exact cause is still unknown but what we do know is that it has the following contributing factors.
Excessive Use of Your Legs
Prolonged running, bending, and other forms of high-stress exercise can lead to runner’s knee. Routines that cause the muscles around the knees to exert maximum force in short intervals like plyometrics are particularly aggravating to the joints and tendons that make up your legs.
A direct hit to the knee when you fall or bump into a hard object or surface can cause a significant injury. Sometimes, even though there are no cuts, the muscles could be bruised and strained, enough to cause pain that lasts for a few hours to a couple of days. Injuries of the kneecaps themselves are expected to result in runner’s knee.
Some people are borne with irregularly formed feet. Some have overpronation or flat feet, which happens when the arch of the foot collapses excessively downward or inward, while others have hypermobile feet, an abnormality in which some or all of a person’s joints have an unusually large range of movement. These abnormalities affect the movement of the kneecaps, causing them more strain than normal.
This is a condition that describes a set of anatomical changes to the legs that lead to instability. Those who have knee malalignment often feel like their kneecap is slipping out of their knee, causing their leg muscles to adjust atypically. This results in the abnormal or uneven thinning of the cartilage that separates the knee cap from the tendons.
Your patella or kneecap has cartilage underneath it that serves as a cushion, which safely transfers the weight of your upper body to your feet and to the ground. When you have Chondromalacia Patellae, however, this cartilage deteriorates and softens much faster, causing an imbalance of weight transfer between the bones in your knees, which results in pain over time.
Runner’s Knee Treatment
So how do you treat patellofemoral pain syndrome and iliotibial band syndrome? Well, before we talk about treatment, let’s find out about their symptoms and diagnosis first. Generally, when you feel pain in front or behind your kneecaps every time you bend your knee to walk, squat, kneel, run, or get up from a chair and that same pain seems to exacerbate when you walk downhill, it means you have a runner’s knee.
Having it checked by a physiotherapist as soon as possible is the first best step in your treatment. Your physiotherapist will prepare a treatment plan that is tailored to your actual condition. This may include a series of physical therapy sessions and wearing orthotics for your shoes to correct your walk. Normally these are complemented with longer rest, elevating your legs for an hour or two when you are sitting or lying down, and wrapping your knees with an elastic bandage or patellar straps. Severe cases of runner’s knee, such as when the cartilage is severely deteriorated, may require surgery.