In the training article this week we’re going to look at how to fix runner’s knee. We’ll look at what the causes for this type of injury are, and how to successfully recover from this often very painful running injury.
Struggling to figure out how to fix runner’s knee?
If you’ve ever suffered with runner’s knee then you know how debilitating and frustrating an injury it is. You want nothing more than to find a solution and get back out there.
On top of that there’s all the non runners that queue up to deliver you the assertion that running is bad for your knees. Pain in the arse right? – The idea that running is bad for your knees or any part of your body is just dumb.
Like I needed to tell you that 😉
It is true however that poor core strength, lack of flexibility, poor form and under development of key muscle groups causes misalignment and increased likelihood of knee injury.
That aside, if you’re jumping straight off the couch and on to the road, having led a predominantly sedentary lifestyle up to now, it’s likely you’re gonna feel some pain.
You’ll need to get used to that pain because the reality is it’s part of the deal. You’re putting your body under stress it hasn’t experienced before and so you’ll have a significant period of adjustment.
But some pain is different…
If you’re experiencing pain on, under and around the kneecap is likely to be the onset of runner’s knee and you’ll need to get it checked out rather than hope it will pass.
Both experienced and beginner runners can develop runner’s knee issues for a number of reasons. It can usually come about from an increase in mileage and a lack of attention to strength, conditioning and flexibility in key areas of the body.
What Is Runner’s Knee
Before suggesting solutions for how to fix runner’s knee it will be helpful to explain what runner’s knee is and what it is not.
Runner’s knee is not a condition in itself. “Runner’s Knee” is more a throwaway term applied commonly to a variety of knee conditions brought on for a variety of reasons.
I’ll try not to include too much technical medical jargon here as I know it can be difficult for many to comprehend. After all this isn’t a medical document, and I’m not a knee specialist.
So, simply speaking there are two types of knee complaint that can be deemed to constitute runner’s knee;
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS)
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome is a medical term used to describe pain around and under the patella, or kneecap. It is commonly referred to as “runner’s knee” because of its frequent presentation in runners. It’s not entirely clear or even agreed amongst treatment specialists what the cause of PFPS is, however it’s generally agreed that sustained high intensity activity can lead to the condition.
As pain under the knee sets in, it’s usually mild enough that many ignore it and keep running. However this can be a bad idea. Continuing to run after you feel pain under the kneecap will likely aggravate the complaint putting you out of action for a couple of weeks at least.
Rest can sometimes be enough but often it’s not. The reasons you developed the complaint to begin with is likely to still exist and so to see a specialist and put in place a plan so that it does not re-occur is more than a good idea.
I have to stress I’m not a running injury specialist, however I have had to figure out how to fix runner’s knee and I believe there are certain things that can aid recovery.
It’s my view that a sudden increase in mileage coupled with inadequate strength, conditioning and flexibility can bring on the condition.
Introducing hill running, especially the downhill stuff can also bring on runner’s knee. Poor running form and gait can also be a likely contributor.
Check out this resource on Runner’s Knee for more in depth information.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)
The iliotibial band is a thick band that runs from the pelvis down the outer part of the thigh to the knee. It crosses the knee and attaches to the top of the shinbone. The iliotibial (IT) band helps stabilize the outer part of the knee through its full range of motion.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) is an injury that is usually caused by sustained high intensity use of connective tissues located on the outer part of thigh and knee. Pain and tenderness is usually focused just above the knee joint. ITBS is a common cause of lateral knee pain in runners and cyclists.
Check out this article which may help you figure out if you have an ITB complaint or not. Commonly referred to as ITB Syndrome, this bad boy affects the side of the knee and can occur as a result of imbalances and poor form.
If you’re affected by ITBS then it’s likely due to poor strength and stability in the hips, quads hammers and core (or any combination).
Everyone suffering from this condition will no doubt require a different solution, so always best to have your problem diagnosed by a professional.
The guys over at Kinetic Revolution recommend a combination of resistance and activation exercises coupled with correction of running gait to be a solid solution for ITBS sufferers.
Treatment of ITBS with anti-inflammatory drugs, icing the affected area and rest can help relieve the symptoms but without a correction to alignment and running form it’s likely to recur as soon you get mileage back up.
How To Fix Runner’s Knee For Good
Figuring out how to fix runner’s knee can be a difficult process and there are no guarantees. Recovery will be entirely an individual thing. However, there are a number of things you can do to increase your chances of a full recovery.
- Get yourself some anti inflammatory drugs, although I’m not a big fan so I avoid them unless completely necessary.
- Ice the affected area for a minute on, minute off for a couple of days until pain subsides.
- Stay off the road until you recover.
- Meditate & visualise a positive recovery. Often our focus on the worst case scenario lends itself to prolonged injury.
- Foam roll the calves, hamstrings, glutes, adductors, IT band and quads etc for about one minute each twice daily
- If you can use the foam roller without pain, progress to using a tennis ball for deeper penetration into the muscle
- Stretch the calves, hamstrings, glutes, adductors, IT band and quads etc for about one minute each.
- Get a gait analysis and system to correct any imbalances.
- Get a strength and flexibility analysis. Increased flexibility and an ability to effectively move your own body weight can be a contributing factor in your recovery.
- After pain subsides begin a strength and conditioning training regime before getting back out on the road.
- Once you’re back, stay on grass for as much as possible until you get back to higher mileage.
Does Kinesiology Taping or Orthotics Help?
Maybe, but I wouldn’t be relying on either of them. Taping might get you through an event but with the weight of an injury of any kind on your mind, you have to wonder where the advantage lies by “just finishing”.
Personally I’ve used Kinesiology Taping as a preventative measure, but where an injury such as Runner’s Knee exists taping is likely to help very little.
As far as orthotics are concerned I wouldn’t recommend them as a solution to runner’s knee. Purely for the fact that they act as a crutch and do not solve the problem – in my opinion.
Sure, go for it if you think you might get some relief but they shouldn’t be a permanent solution. Correction of instability, weakness in the core muscle groups and correction of gait issues need to be addressed.
Fix you body by training and developing the whole unit. Avoid reliance on short term solutions or it’s likely you’ll be back at square one again.
How Long Will I Be Out Of Action?
Well, that depends on the nature of the injury. If you catch the symptoms in the early stages you could be back within a couple of weeks, stronger than you were before.
If you’ve been suffering through knee pain for a while, taking time off until the pain subsides, it could take much longer.
You need to develop discipline with regard to injury and recovery. Coming back before you’re ready is a fool’s game. If you do the Runner’s Knee Rehab work you’ll likely correct the issue for good.
The Bottom Line
All injuries come about by virtue of physical stress (and in my experience mental stress) on the body. A sudden increase in intensity of training without proper advanced development, will result in weak areas beginning to break down.
Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it presents you with an opportunity to correct the weaker areas. You can avoid Injury if you heed the tell tail signals, stop training and address the issues.
I don’t believe there is a such thing as training too much, but I do believe in training incorrectly.
Many runners will say that injury is inevitable with high mileage but that doesn’t have to be true. You can successfully complete high intensity training over a long term once your body is adequately prepared.
Successful running is not only about running. The work in the gym arguably plays a greater role in staying free of injuries such as runner’s knee.