Running is one of the nation’s favourite ways to keep fit, largely owing to the fact that it’s a low-cost, highly effective method of improving fitness and losing weight. However, just like most high impact exercises, running is not without its risks. One of the complaints we hear about the most from runners is painful, swollen knees – this is commonly referred to as ‘Runner’s Knee’, and the term tends to be applied to two types of repetitive strain injury, Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) and Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS). Physiotherapy can help with both of these conditions.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome affects the side of the knee (at or slightly above the lateral epicondyle, if we’re getting technical). If you’ve got ITBS, you’ll have an area on the side of your knee that’s painful to poke, but you’ll find that applying pressure to the kneecap straight on does not hurt. The pain will often be worse when descending hills or staircases, and tends to come on quickly.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, on the other hand, affects the front of the knee, and sufferers will often report feeling pain beneath the kneecap. Unlike ITBS, the pain is usually worse when ascending slopes or stairs, and can come on relatively slowly. PFPS affects more women than men due to the angle of the thighbone between hip and knee.
With both syndromes (and as with all forms of exercise), prevention is better than cure. It’s possible to reduce the impact of running by designing routes that will involve a lot of softer surfaces such as grass, and minimising time spent on roads or pavements. Try and avoid uneven terrain where possible, and, if you’re new to running, introduce hills into your program gradually. Make sure you’re wearing trainers that are appropriate for you – running shops are able to test your gait to make sure your footwear is suitable and won’t add extra strain to your knees.
If you’re experiencing pain, your body is telling you that something isn’t right. Cut back your mileage immediately and make sure your taking the preventative measures listed above. Physiotherapy can help with both forms of Runner’s Knee without having to resort to steroid injections or surgery. Your physiotherapist can show you how to tap your patella to draw it back to the mid-line, or can advise you on knee supports to minimise strain.
Physiotherapists are able to analyse your posture and body alignment to address any underlying issues that may be contributing to knee pain. Practicing stretching and strengthening exercises for hips and legs can also benefit runners in the long term.
Finally, your physiotherapist can treat inflammation of the knee tissue by recommending Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), rest and ice.
If you suffer from Runner’s Knee and live in the Midlands, why not contact us to find out how we can help you?
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