It’s a moment every runner dreads: You’re midway through a training plan for your next race when you start to feel a dull, aching pain in your knee. The pain is at its worst when you take the stairs or sit at your desk for an extended period of time. Luckily, knee pain is a very common running injury that will usually heal on its own. However, it’s still important for runners educate themselves about runner’s knee should it ever affect them.
What causes runner’s knee? When a runner puts heavy stress on their knee, they put themselves at risk of developing runner’s knee. But what causes some distance runners to develop the injury while others can make it through an entire training regimen without any knee pain? Runners who are born with flat feet and those whose kneecaps may be out of alignment are more susceptible to runner’s knee. Tightness, imbalance and weakness in the thigh muscles can also lead to the injury.
How to know if you have runner’s knee: There are a number of knee injuries that runners commonly experience. How can you tell whether your injury is an IT band injury, a stress fracture or runner’s knee? The distinguishing symptoms of runner’s knee include: pain under or around the front of the kneecap, pain when kneeling or squatting and pain that occurs when walking up or down stairs.
How to diagnose runner’s knee: If you suspect that you are suffering from runner’s knee, make an appointment with your doctor to help determine what is causing the injury and how to relieve the symptoms. Your doctor will likely have you perform various exercises to determine if you are in fact suffering from runner’s knee. If your doctor does not feel confident that you have runner’s knee, he or she may also order an X-ray or MRI.
How runner’s knee is treated: Most of the time, runner’s knee goes away on its own. With proper rest, icing, compression and elevation (known as the RICE formula), you should be able to resume running before you know it. Your doctor may suggest you take aspirin or ibuprofen to help alleviate the pain. Your doctor may also prescribe an exercise routine for to help strengthen the thigh muscles in order to prevent future injuries. It is rare that runner’s knee requires surgery, but your doctor will recommend the best treatment for you based on the severity of your injury.
While runner’s knee is an annoying injury for those training for an upcoming race, with proper diagnosis and treatment, it won’t put you on the sidelines for good. By stretching, exercising proper running form, using updated running gear and slowly increasing your mileage, you can greatly reduce your risk of developing runner’s knee.