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Plagued by runner’s knee? Here’s how to avoid and treat it

Knees are delicate things. While some runners might experience a twinge every now and then, knee pain can be the reason some runners have to stop altogether. Because of this, it’s important to tune into your body and catch any issues early on.

Knee pain from running occurs for a number of different reasons. Unfortunately, there isn’t one solution. However, this guide will help you understand your knee pain and hopefully keep it under control.

What is runner’s knee?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome, otherwise known as runner’s knee, is a fairly generic term for knee pain from running. It tends to involve a dull pain around the front of the knee, and you might notice a popping or clicking sound when you move your leg in a certain way. 

Runner’s knee tends to occur when you run too far too fast and your knees aren’t prepared. It can also be down to the way you’re running or a lack of muscle strength.

While runner’s knee is common, it’s important to note that there are a number of different causes of knee pain. It could be something else such as bursitis or arthritis, and your GP will be able to diagnose the issue.

Prevention

Lots of people think that running is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. But it’s much more complicated than that. One of the things runners have to think about is preventing injuries – especially if you’re training for a race. You don’t want to have to duck out at the last minute due to knee pain, so here are some tips for prevention.

Training sensibly 

Since runner’s knee often boils down to overuse, it’s important to follow a training plan if you’re planning on running a significant race. If you start running intense distances with little or no preparation, your body will suffer and you could have a serious injury. Training plans ensure that you prepare for a race safely and sensibly, with plenty of rest days in between. 

The right shoes

Most runners agree that the right shoe helps their knees. Shoes handle the shock that is created by the impact of your foot striking the ground. However, there’s some debate in this area. A 2018 study showed that trainers that are too cushioned could actually contribute to running related injuries – including knee pain. Some even vouch for barefoot running, where you don’t wear shoes at all. So, what’s the answer? It seems that, while you don’t want super bouncy trainers, you still need the right ones for you. The perfect trainer will support your ankles and feet, and keep everything well balanced.

Adjusting your technique

Knee pain can also be caused from a lack of technique. There are certain ways of running that can cause knee pain, such as over-striding, lifting the knees too high and leaning backwards. When running, try to lean forwards and focus on keeping your knees soft and bent. A gait analysis will help in assessing how you run and finding any problem areas. It’ll also help you find the right pair of shoes.

Strength training

Runner’s knee can also be a result of weak muscles – especially in the thighs and hips. Hip weakness can force your thigh to move irregularly when running and pull inwards, which puts excessive strain on the knees, while thigh muscles – especially the quadriceps – are directly related to the way you straighten and bend your knees. So, it’s important to do strength training alongside your running and build these muscles.

Stretching

All runners know the importance of stretching. But even I’ll admit that when I’ve been pushed for time in the morning I haven’t stretched for as long as I should. Stretching properly before running can reduce the likelihood of knee pain as it strengthens and exercises the muscles surrounding the knees, giving them more support. You should stretch for at least 10-15 minutes before running and use a range of exercises or, alternatively, try out our Pre-run yoga routine.

Treatment

Unfortunately, knee pain from running can still occur even when you’ve done everything right. In this case, it’s important to know how to treat the pain so you can recover as quickly as possible.

Rest

Once you’ve experienced knee pain, it’s important not to put pressure on the area. Keep your leg elevated and avoid putting weight on it. Stop running until you’ve spoken to your GP and established the next steps.

Ice

Ice is always the go-to method for reducing inflammation. Keep the leg elevated and use an ice pack or bag of peas on the knee for 15-20 minutes three or four times a day.  

Knee brace

After resting your knee for as long as the GP recommends (which could be for weeks – or months), it might be time to start running again. If you’re ready, use a knee brace to shift the weight off the damaged part of your knee. You’ll need to start slowly and combine your run with plenty of walking, too.

If you’re booking a running event through Let’s Do This, then there’s no need to worry about knee pain from running. We offer full injury protection up until 4 days before the event.
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Briony is a writer currently living in London. While she spends a lot of time hunched over a desk trying to craft sentences, her other passion is running. She enjoys setting her own goals and is currently training for her second half marathon.

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