Identifying and Knowing Runner’s Knee
Runner’s Knee, the term most typically used describe Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS), frequently occurs with fitness enthusiasts who are avid distance runners . With this condition, the patella or kneecap doesn't track correctly during knee flexion and extension, resulting in various forces to imbalance the joint and cause ongoing discomfort.
How the patella rests on the femur is extremely important, as there are various pressure points within its groove, meaning it can cause an abundance of complications. Runners knee can become a problem for this very reason. Runner’s Knee can trigger very fast, feeling very acute and resulting in a lot of trauma. Mild cases of PFPS can become more surprisingly problematic, as they can cause more chronic issues with the severity of the pain silently increasing over time. The sooner the issue is identified by a physician, the process of recovery becomes more irreversible.
The Signs and Symptoms Of PFPS
The most frequent complaint is pain around the knee cap, rather than its focal point. The origin of the pain will feel like its directly behind the knee, with the discomfort moving to the sides of the patella.
If suffering from runners knee, the individual may feel emotionally scared in participating in activity, as one of the main symptoms is the knee feeling like its going to ''collapse'' or suddenly lose full function.
Aggravation in the joint can be spurred by prolonged flexion of the knee, such as sitting, weight bearing exercises, such as lunges or squats, or constant repetitions against an unlevel service, such as running uphill or downhill.
How is Runner's Knee Caused?
A direct hit to the knee cap can shift the knee cap out of place
Imbalanced Agonist and Antagonist Muscles
The patella relies on strong and functional thigh muscles (quadriceps) to keep the patella aligned. Weak hamstrings can also cause a muscular imbalance that will eventually affect the knee joint.
Overuse Or Overtrained
Any repeated movement or non-movement can chronically cause the issue. Prolonged sitting, such as working a desk job, followed by more inactivity, can cause the knee to become less functional with the surrounding muscles becoming tight and weaker. Excess lunging or squatting can put a lot of stress on the knee cap and could overload the joint.
Sometimes genetic make up and anatomy are simply a natural cause. Examples could be incorrect bone structure on one side at the hips, in the thigh bone or in the ankles. On one side, the knee cap could be larger in size to its opposite, causing the tracking on the femoral groove to become more impaired. Seeing a physiotherapist in the is case would be a good idea. The physician could design a program to help achieve balance on bot sides and reduce risk of chronic knee injury.
Correct Your Personal Training Program
Modern exercise is proving more everyday how important it is to train correctly for running activities. Incorrect training programs can lead to large array of problems, including damaged bone structure, imbalanced muscles leading to weak joints, bad posture and spine issues, and can even affect internal organs over time. When natural biomechanics are not to blame, it’s most likely that the quadriceps are not strong enough to keep the patella aligned with the femur.
As mentioned previously, the quadriceps and hamstrings must be equally trained, so that either muscle group does not overcompensate each other, adding extra pressure to the knee joint's function.
Strengthening the inner quadriceps is essential when maintaining the alignment of the patella. The inner quads (pulls knee can towards your body) and outer quads (away from your body) will pull the knee cap in opposite directions. The inner quadriceps tend to get progressively weak if not trained regularly. The outer quads can then compensate too much and pull harder on the patella, shifting it out of center alignment.
Last but not least, it is not all about training your quadriceps and hamstrings. Training all your muscles from the hips down are all equally as important. Every compartment supports each other when coming to knee health.
Tight IT Band
The Illiotibial Band originates from the side of your hip and runs down the side of your leg and beneath the knee cap. Runners who experience a tight IT Band will tend to feel the irritation on and off. The later stages of IT Band Syndrome can also cause a clicking noise in the knee cap, due to further instability of the knee cap. The main function of this fibrous tissue is to strengthen the placement of your glutes, TFL and patella itself, meaning its a primary stabilizer. Avid runners who now how to condition and warm down after a workout, will foam roll on their side (from the hip to the knee) to ensure the band does not become too tight over time.
Click here to read more about foam rolling.
Correct Running Shoes
All sport specific or training needs require the right shoes as a platform. If there is an arched gap between your foot and the terrain where the sole of your itself should land, then most physicians will recommend orthotics to close the gap. If your foot is not fully landed on the floor, the forces impacted will directly affect your knee joint, rather than being absorbed by the muscles that support the patella.
Train Gluteus Maximus & Medius
Activating your Glute Medius can be a lot more tricky and less straight forward then training your Glute Maximus. This particular muscle is important absorption as the foot strikes the ground while running and keeping the pelvis in steady position. It also helps the function of the inner quads and prevents knee adduction as stated before. Many exercises can be done for the glute medius:
- Zig Zag Squats
- Bridges (Using a theraband)
- Plank Steps (Using a theraband on lateral steps)
- Step Ups (Coming in from a lateral position)
- Seated Clam Shells
In any form of training, it's always best to listen to your body. If you sense overload to your joints or its supporting muscles, take a rest day or activate recovery through stretching and foam rolling on all lower extremities. If there are any signs of swelling, inflammation or prolonged pain, practice the RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Also, swimming is another low impact/recovery activity should try. Or, do what I do, on my recovery day I'll usually ride the stationary bike for 30 minutes while listening to faithfully lyrics, followed up by 1 hour of restorative yoga.
Looking to bring your running game to the next level or train for an event. Ask one of our personal trainers or kinesiologists for a gait analysis and assess your form.