Runner’s knee is not a specific condition rather, a collective term for overuse injuries that resulted from excessive exercise and activity of the lower extremities with a main presentation of knee pain. The conditions that may affect the knee include patellofemoral pain syndrome, patellar tendonitis, iliotibial band syndrome and chondromalacia patella. Runners are usually the ones who experience runner’s knee although other athletes who do a lot of knee bending like jumping and cycling can also suffer from the condition.
Any activity that puts repeated stress on the knee joint causes the condition and overuse is the most common cause. Other causes include:
· Patellar misalignment
· Tight or weak muscles
· Irritation of the lining of the knee
· Dislocated patella
· Trauma to the patella
· Torn cartilage
· Muscle imbalance between the quadriceps and hamstrings
Running is the most common activity that can lead to runner’s knee (thus the name).Being obese and overweight can also increase the risk of having the condition. Runner’s knee is more common in women than men.
The most common symptom of runner’s knee is pain characterized as a dull ache. The pain is located anterior to the knee or behind the patella. Pain is usually aggravated by walking, running, squatting, ascending or descending stairs and kneeling. There’s also tenderness and swelling around the joint. A popping or grinding sound when the knee is bent and straightened may be present. Regarding iliotibial band syndrome, pain is located at the lateral (outer) part of the knee.
How is Runner’s Knee Diagnosed?
Doctors specifically orthopedist, orthopedic surgeon and physiatrist can help diagnose runner’s knee. To be able to arrive with such diagnosis, the doctor will take the patient’s medical history, history of present illness and physical examination.
During physical examination, the lower extremity is checked for mal-alignment, leg length discrepancy, patellar dislocation, tightness, muscle strength, mobility and range of motion. To further assess the impairments, the patient will be asked to do activities like jumping and squatting. Imaging scans may be done to further see the damage on the knee.
Runner’s knee can be treated successfully through conservative managements. There’s no need to worry for surgery since it rarely requires one. Very often, the first line of treatment is to rest the joint then apply ice to improve the signs of inflammation, compress the joint and elevate the extremity. Pain relievers can also help manage pain.
To be able to help you recover fully, physiotherapy is needed. Treatment will vary depending on the cause of the problem, present symptoms and functional status of the patient. Physiotherapy program might include pain management with the use of therapeutic ultrasound, hot compress and TENS, strengthening of the gluteals, hamstrings and quadriceps, stretching of the calf muscles, iliotibial band as well as quadriceps and hamstrings, balance training- to have an optimal knee alignment and, taping or bracing- for support and pain relief. Shoe inserts and orthotics may be recommended to alleviate the knee from repetitive stress.
Surgery is only performed when there’s a torn cartilage, fractured patella or there’s a need to realign the patella.
What can I do?
If you want to maintain your fitness while recovering, think about cross training. The Law of Specificity says that we will get most benefit from cross training on something that is closest to running. The Bionic Runner provides such a cross training tool. It's patented 60:40 swing/stance phase timing, and it similar motion path to running, elicit a hear rate that is on par with actually running. You will also exercise the same muscle groups. Get back to training now