I have been a runner for over 30 years, having taken my first running steps at the age of 12. I have not stopped since then. Sometimes I wonder if I calculated the miles I have logged over the ensuing decades, how far they would take me? Around the world? To the moon and back? How many pairs of shoes have I gone through? Too many, I fear. How many running injuries have I incurred? Surprisingly, none. Not one in all of these years of running. I have only succumbed to the proverbial runner’s high. The only injury I have sustained may have been to my psyche when I did not complete the last half-marathon I ran in the time I set for myself to achieve. Call me lucky or a born runner, but I consistently remain pain and injury free, running every single day of my life, and I fully intend to do so, dashing all the way to my final resting place, many years into the future. Just bury me with my running shoes on.
Needless to say, I found it of interest to research an article on runner’s knee, also known as patellofemoral pain. The experts say that this condition affects runners, jumpers, skiers, cyclists, and soccer players. These are the types of athletes who put continual stress upon their knees. Runner’s knee refers to any number of medical conditions that contribute to the pain around the front of the knee, the patellofemoral pain. This also includes anterior knee pain syndrome, patellofemoral misalignment, and chondromalacia patella.
When runner’s knee presents, the patient will usually notice a dull, aching sensation under or around the front of the kneecap, the patella, where it connects with the thighbone. Pain may occur when walking up and down stairs, squatting, sitting, or kneeling, especially for an extended amount of time.
Contributing factors to runner’s knee include a misalignment of the kneecap, a dislocation (either partial or complete), some type of injury to the area, significant overuse or training, weakened thigh muscles, and flat feet. Runner’s knee can result when the soft tissues around the front of the knee become irritated. This is common among athletes. Even pain that starts in another part of the body, such as the back or the hip, can create referred pain to the knee.
There are several ways to prevent this condition, and staying in shape is chief among them. If you are in good physical condition, chances are you are controlling your weight. Excess weight can overstress the knees. It is also imperative to stretch before running or any other exercise, something which I will admit to not doing. It is important to follow-up your exercise routine with stretching exercises, too. When training, increase your intensity on a gradual scale. Sudden changes can contribute to injury. When running, make sure to use proper gear. Get shoes that fit properly and are in good condition. Some people with flat feet need shoe inserts. When running, be sure to employ proper form by leaning forward and keeping your knees bent. Try to run on clear, somewhat soft surfaces. Walk down steep hills, or, if you have to run, do so in a zig zag pattern. People may look at you twice, but at least you are keeping the pace!
To treat runner’s knee, be sure to get some rest, keeping weight off of the affected knee. Try swimming for awhile instead. Apply cold packs several times a day. Use an elastic bandage such as a knee sleeve. When at rest, keep your knee raised up higher than your heart. Aspirin or ibuprofen may provide pain relief. If the knee does not improve with rest, you should consult your physician for a complete evaluation.
With early treatment, runner’s knee gets better. Reconditioning may be necessary after you have allowed the knee to rest for a period of time. You will need to regain your full range of motion, your strength, your power, and the speed necessary to outrun that pesky neighborhood dog once again as he nips at your heels. Some people find that using a special knee brace for support helps, as do certain shoe inserts. Just remember that the open road is yours. If you are a runner like me, you do not want anything to interfere with your routine. Prevention and early treatment for injuries is your best bet.
(Information for this article was obtained at http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00382)