Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), sometimes known as “runner’s knee,” is a condition in which the cartilage on the bottom of the patella becomes irritated (kneecap). Knee problems account for around 40% of all running injuries. According to 4,500 responses to a runnersworld.com study, 13% of runners experienced knee discomfort last year. PFPS flares up most often during or after lengthy runs, lengthy periods of sitting, or descending slopes and stairs.
WHO’S AT RISK?
According to Bryan Heiderscheit, Ph.D., P.T., director of the University of Wisconsin Runners’ Clinic, anyone with biomechanical issues that place extra pressure on the knee is susceptible to PFPS. Overpronation (inward foot rolling) and weak quadriceps, hips, or glutes are risk factors.
ARE YOU ABLE TO RUN THROUGH IT?
Yes, but you’ll need to take more rest days and lower your mileage. Every other day, run as far as you can without hurting yourself. Uphill jogging is less uncomfortable for some runners. Thus Heiderscheit suggests jogging on a treadmill to simulate hills. Running uphill offers the extra benefit of strengthening your glutes. Gluteal muscles that are vital assist regulate hip and thigh mobility and keep the knees from turning inward. Running downhill might aggravate soreness, so avoid it. Bicycling can help you recover faster by strengthening your quadriceps. Other knee-friendly exercises include elliptical exercise and swimming.
According to Charlie Merrill, M.S.P.T., a physical therapist at ALTA Physical Therapy in Boulder, Colorado, lateral side steps can help strengthen weak hip and glute muscles. Place a resistance band loop somewhere above or below your ankles or knees. Separate your feet and bend your knees to a modest crouching stance. Walk sideways for 10 to 15 steps while remaining in this stance, keeping your feet straight and your upper body steady. Then go oppositely. Maintain band tension by keeping your feet apart. Once you’ve mastered this, try performing it on your toes with your heels lifted off the ground. If your kneecap isn’t tracking correctly, the athletic tape can help. In the early stages of this ailment, ice after a run can also help. Heat is most effective once the damage has healed and is no longer severe.
PREVENT A RELAPSE
Shortening your stride length and landing with your knee slightly bent, according to Heiderscheit, can relieve up to 30% of the joint’s strain. Count how many steps you take in a minute and increase by five to ten percent each minute. Strengthen your knee’s support muscles, such as the quadriceps and glutes, using exercises like lateral side steps and squats to keep your knee tracking correctly. Stretching your hip flexors is also crucial.
Meb Keflezighi, the Boston Marathon champion, tripped on ice and hurt his knee while training for the 2010 Boston Marathon. He took two weeks off, then ran every other day for the next two weeks until opting out of the half marathon in March. The tactic paid off: he finished second in Boston that year in a time of 2:09.
Knee Check: How to Proceed
- Stop: When you get up, you have pain on the inside or outside of your knee that doesn’t go away as the day goes on.
- Take care: Early in the run, twinges may occur, although they usually fade or vary. After a run, the pain returns. After a lengthy period of sitting, it becomes bothersome.
- Run: Completely pain-free, even after watching a two-hour movie or running a long distance with a strong elevation.
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