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Knee Pain Running: A Common Complaint

Knee Pain Running: A Common Complaint
Knee Pain Running: A Common Complaint

Knee Pain Running Is The Most Common Running Injury

Runners knee, patellofemoral pain syndrome, chondromalacia patella whatever you wish to call it knee pain running is a very common complaint. In fact knee pain running is the most common running injury and runners knee accounts for approximately 20% of all running injuries. Runners knee is so common, it’s one of the most common disorders of the knee accounting for up to one in every four knee injuries.
Runners knee as it suggests occurs commonly however not exclusively in runners and can strike any athlete who’s activity and training involves a lot of knee bending including sports like walking, biking and anything involving a lot of jumping.

Knee Pain Running Where Is It Felt?

The common location for experiencing knee pain running is an aching and pain around the kneecap. This pain is particularly noticeable when going up or down stairs, as well as squatting, kneeling or running. Pain can even be aggravated by long periods of sitting with the knees bent, which is why it is also occasionally referred to as ‘movie-goers knee’. Knee pain running typically starts off mild at first and will frequently become progressively more intense with time and continued training.

What Causes Knee Pain Running?

It is important to note here that runners knee is not the only cause of knee pain running, illio tibial band syndrome is another common cause of knee pain running and conditions such as osteoarthritis, meniscal pathology will also be causes of knee pain running. Hence it is important any injury or pain is assessed by the appropriate professional to ensure accurate diagnosis and correct management.
Runners knee or condromalacia patella is through abnormal softening / degeneration of the cartilage of the underside of the kneecap as it slides over the lower end of the thigh bone (the femur). The cause of condromalacia patella is that normally when running the kneecap is pulled over the end of the femur in a straight line. Abnormal “tracking” of the knee cap during running allows the knee cap to grate along the femur causing the pain rather than “tracking” smoothly in the groove when the leg is being bent and straightened.

What Is The Reason Behind “Tracking” Issues?

There is a combination of factors the may result in the patella not tracking smoothly including:

  • Tightness of specifically the outside thigh muscles pulling the kneecap outwards
  • Weakness of the inner anterior thigh muscle failing to counter this outwards pull
  • Weak core, pelvis, glute muscles failing to control pelvic twisting and tilting when running
  • Imbalance of strength between the muscles of the front and back of the thigh
  • Lack of foot support through poor footwear choices or lower leg and intrinsic foot muscle weakness

Who’s At Risk Of Getting Knee Pain Running?

Aetiological risk factors associated with running injuries include previous injury, lack of running experience, running to compete and excessive weekly running distance. This suggests the prevention of running injuries should focus on changes of behaviour by education. Education focusing on the importance of complete rehabilitation and the early recognition of symptoms of overuse, and on the provision of training guidelines Running injuries. A review of the epidemiological literature. van Mechelen W.

What’s The Cure For Knee Pain Running?

Management of knee pain running in some situations can be quite simple other times it can be considerably more involved and multi-factoral. As suggested above if you have steeply increased your mileage recently, you might consider holding back a bit, likewise, back off on any new hill or speed work you have been doing. If you think about it at nearly 1000 steps per mile the more miles you do the more potential for overuse to play a role.
Other factors for consideration can include:

  • Try to avoid running on banked surfaces or curved tracks which can effectively give you one short leg whilst running, try as much as possible to run on a more level surface even consider running on soft sand as it reduces the impact forces that need be dissipated.
  • Get your footwear and running technique assessed, both can play a role in managing knee pain running.
  • Appropriately targeted strengthening, stretching exercises are important for a full recovery and reducing any likelihood of recurrence. Frequently Sydney physiotherapists will prescribe foam roller soft tissue release techniques to enhance any effects that may be gained from stretching exercises or soft tissue techniques used.
  • A Sydney physiotherapist will often use taping techniques to facilitate desired muscle activity or aid biomechanically correct “tracking” whilst the effects of any exercise program are still taking effect. If taping techniques are effective in helping manage the pain then knee bracing may also be beneficial.
  • When resuming running a graded increase to activity using a return to running program is almost always important to avoid any relapse.

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance on Knee Pain Running should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, general practitioner or physiotherapist.

Hayden Latimer is the founder of and principle physiotherapist at Sydney Physio Clinic. Since graduating from Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand he’s gained wide experience practicing across the globe for over 15 years and is now extremely knowledgeable in helping people reduce discomfort and restore function and mobility.