Staying in shape is something we should all strive for, but it can come with some unintended consequences. Using the wrong equipment or improper form can cause your body to overcompensate and lead to injuries if not careful.
Runner’s knee is one of the most common injuries we see in active individuals. Medically, runner’s knee is known as patellofemoral pain syndrome and causes a dull pain right behind and around the knee cap.
This happens due to movements in your legs and hips that load the knee joint on a flexed position. As you take strides, you add impact to a bent knee each time you leap forward.
This situation becomes even worse if your running mechanics are wrong. The clearest sign that you may have runner’s knee is if you feel pain while running down stairs or down a hill. However, you may feel pain while doing any of the following:
- Sitting Down or Standing Up
The good news is that runner’s knee is not a structural problem, so there is no damage to your ligaments or cartilage. The problem lies in how your muscles are functioning. It is issues away from your knee that forces the patella to bump against the femoral groove and leads to pain and discomfort.
Most Common Causes of Runner’s Knee
Aside from bad mechanics, the most common cause of runner’s knee is muscle weakness and tightness around your legs and core.
Weak hips and inner quads can cause your femur to rotate inward as your running, which can make the patella bump the femoral groove. Tight hamstrings or hips can also be the culprit as a limited range of motion can cause a misalignment while running.
It’s also worth noting that women are more likely to get runner’s knee as they tend to have a wider set of hips. Another possible cause is if you are flat-footed.
Runner’s Knee Prevention
Because runner’s knee is not a structural issue, there are several things you can do to help prevent the injury. As one of the common causes is muscle weakness and tightness, the solution often involves strength exercises and stretching.
The key to these strength exercises is to target the right muscles so you can keep your knee and hip in proper alignment. Do these exercises as bodyweight only, or you can use a resistance band around your thigh (right above the knee).
Below are some easy exercises that will help prevent runner’s knee:
- Clamshell: Lie on your side with your knees bent and stacked on top of one another. The lower arm is used to support your head and your other one monitors the position of your pelvis. Roll forward slightly so that your top hand is in front of your hip bone on the bottom. Slightly tighten your abdominal muscles and lift the top knee away from the bottom knee while keeping ankles together as far as you can without moving your pelvis. Return to the start position and repeat. Roll over and do the other side!
- Donkey Kick: Position yourself on all fours on a mat. Place your hands underneath your shoulders and place your knees under your hips. Keep your right knee bent at 90 degrees and flex the foot as you lift the knee until it is level with the hip. Lower the knee without touching the floor and repeat the lift.
- Fire Hydrant: Start on all fours with your shoulders over the wrists and knees right under your hips. Keeping the knee bent at 90 degrees, lift it out to the side and up toward the ceiling. Make sure you don’t drop into the opposite hip. Lower back down to the floor and repeat.
- Straight Leg Raise: Lie on your back with your legs straight out and face up. Lock your leg as you lift it straight up toward the ceiling. Hold for three to four seconds, then lower back down and repeat. The key is to ensure you are keeping your leg completely straight as you lift.
When it comes to avoiding muscle tightness, it is very important to work on your flexibility. Similar to a leg raise, try lying on your back and gently pulling your leg by the back of your knee towards your chest (knee is bent in this stretch). For hip flexibility, you can perform running lunges, drop lunges, curtsy lunges, walking crossover lunges, mountain climbers, or Bulgarian split squats. You can find more information on each of those stretches here.
It can also help to use a lacrosse or tennis ball to roll out your posterior glute, quads, and hamstrings.
One last tip for preventing runner’s knee is to invest in proper equipment. Your running shoes can have a huge impact on your physical health. If you have flat feet, it is extremely important to buy shoes with rigid arch support. To do this, a custom shoe or orthotic could be necessary and there are many doctors and physical therapists that can assist with that.
Runner’s Knee Recovery
When it comes to treating runner’s knee, there are four simple things that will make a big difference.
Avoiding repetitive stress on the knee is important for not causing any more pain. Using an ice pack or frozen peas, ice your knee for up to 30 minutes at a time and do not apply heat. Using a compression sleeve or bandage, wrap your knee to restrict any swelling but be cautious not to wrap it too tightly. Lastly, elevating your knee above your foot will help reduce further swelling.
While NSAIDs are commonly used to treat runner’s knee, they can often come with side effects. If you are looking for a natural pain relief solution, consider ordering Capsiva!
Capsiva is a capsaicin pain relief gel that works by blocking your pain signals and promoting healthy blood flow. In turn, this helps reduce inflammation and enhances your body’s natural healing process.
Capsiva is the perfect runner’s companion because you can apply it anytime and anywhere. Whether you experience pain during your run, after you get home, or in the middle of the night, Capsiva is easy to use and has no side effects.