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Runner’s Knee: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

What is Runner’s Knee and How is it Treated

Table of Contents

From prevention to treatment, this blog will explore what is runner’s knee and why it is essential to have a correct diagnosis of your condition.

Find out how to spot the symptoms, what causes a runner’s knee and what to do if you get one – including when to get medical help.

What Is A Runner’s Knee?

Starting a new running program is always great and exciting. The first few days, you start to run further, faster, and more often. Suddenly, you feel pain around your kneecap that does not go away. The pain gets worse with every run, which may be a sign that you have a runner’s knee,

What is a runner’s knee? A runner’s knee or patellofemoral syndrome is a common condition where the kneecaps deteriorate and soften. It is an umbrella term used for several injuries that cause tenderness and pain in front of the knee cap and surrounding area.

A runner’s knee usually results from the kneecap being out of alignment and does not travel in its groove as it should. When this happens, the tissues and tendons are irritated in the knee area, resulting in pain after physical activity or sitting for a long time.

Owing to its name, this condition is one of the most common among long-distance runners. Although running is a common cause, it can also result from other sports and physical activities, including soccer, skiing, basketball, and hiking.

In addition to sports and exercise, the symptoms of runner’s knee may present with activities that involve bending or straightening the knee while weight bearing, including:

  • Standing up from or sitting on a chair
  • Going up or down the stairs
  • Squatting
  • Kneeling
  • Excessive training or overuse
  • Injury

Runner’s knee is one of the most common causes of knee pain in adolescents and adults. Over the 20 years, there are approximately 228,344 Australians that experienced knee injuries or have a similar condition.

Knee injuries can affect anyone – from experienced runners to beginners whose muscles are not yet used to running.

What Are The Symptoms Of Runner’s Knee?

There are three most common symptoms of runner’s knee:

  • Pain in and around the kneecap following an exercise or any physical activity. The pain may also occur after sitting for a long time with the knees bent. (This can cause knee weakness or feelings of instability.)
  • A rubbing, grinding or clicking sound in the kneecap. You mostly hear it after bending or straightening your knee.
  • The kneecap is tender to the touch.

With several injuries that can cause knee pain, it can be challenging to determine its causes. To get a diagnosis and determine the exact cause of the runner’s knee, the doctor may use your medical history or conduct a physical exam and imaging.

Some other knee conditions with similar symptoms to runner’s knee include Patellar tendonitis (jumper’s knee), IT band syndrome, meniscus tear, and knee sprain.

Treatment For Runner’s Knee

Once the condition has been diagnosed, and the underlying cause has been established, the doctor can prescribe a different course of treatment.

Most often, the first step in treatment for a runner’s knee is to practice the RICE method.

  • Rest: Rest the injury by avoiding repetitive stress on the knee.
  • Ice: Apply an ice pack to the knee to reduce pain and swelling. Avoid putting the ice directly on the skin and use a clean cloth between the skin and the ice. Apply it for up to 30 minutes at a time and avoid any heat treatment in the meantime.
  • Compression: Wrap the knee with an elastic bandage or sleeve to restrict the swelling. Put in the exact amount of compression to avoid cutting off blood flow to the injury.
  • Elevation: Placing a pillow or cloth under the knee when sitting or lying down can prevent further swelling. Keep the foot elevated above the knee and the knee above the heart level to lessen significant swelling.

Other treatment options for runner’s knee may include:

  • Take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) if needed, like Ibuprofen and Naproxen, to help manage pain and swelling. Use these medications as directed on the label to prevent unnecessary side effects (risk of bleeding, ulcer, etc.)
  • Perform some stretches and strengthening exercises, especially for the quadriceps muscles. Consult with a doctor first before doing complex exercises.
  • Get some arch supports or orthotics for your shoes to help with the proper position of the feet. These are mostly available at the store, or you can get them custom-made.

If these techniques do not help with the muscle pain and swelling, ask the doctor for the next course of action. It is rare, but severe cases of a runner’s knee may require surgery and further treatment.

People heal at different times, and the recovery time may depend on the cause of injury and the body’s ability to heal. While you try to get better, it is best to take it easy on your knee and apply self-care tips to relieve muscle pain.  

Tips For Preventing Injury

Wear The Right Shoes

It is best to go to a store specialising in running shoes to get fitted. Choose durable and lightweight shoes that are suitable for long-distance running. There are also shoes that are specially made for beginners.

Warm-up And Cool Down

The body needs to warm up properly before starting a running session. Start with 5 to 10 minutes of brisk walking or gentle jogging to warm up the muscles and help prevent injury.

For proper cool down, keep it at an easier pace or walk for the remaining 5 to 10 minutes. This will help the body to relax and recover after running.

Build Up Slowly

Avoid increasing the running distance and intensity too quickly. When running, keep it at the same pace or distance for at least 3 to 4 times before moving to the next level.

Learn First Aid

Runner’s knee is a very common injury among athletes and people who participate in high-impact activities such as running, basketball, and soccer. The good news is that by truly knowing what is runner’s knee and its accompanying symptoms, the condition can be easily addressed and managed well.

If you want to learn more about runner’s knee and how to treat other related injuries, we recommend taking a first aid course in one of our training venues.

At First Aid Courses Darwin, we are passionate about providing our students with cost-effective, streamlined, and comprehensive first-aid courses. Our team of experts has extensive experience delivering training courses that align with guidelines from the Australian Resuscitation Council (ARC) and Safe Work Australia.

Call us at (08) 7120 2570 or book a course with us today.

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