How to Prevent and Treat Runner's Knee
The bane of every runner's existence: runner’s knee. If you’ve escaped it so far, you are one of the lucky few. Most runners will experience it during their running career.
What is runner’s knee?
Runner’s knee is actually an umbrella term that can cover a lot of different types of ailments that affect the kneecap area, also known as the patella. If you are experiencing irritation, pain, or strained tendons, then it's likely you may have runner’s knee, although a doctor would have to confirm the diagnosis and rule out any other issues.
There is no way to absolutely guarantee that you won’t be injured from running. After all, overuse is one of the main causes of runner’s knee. So if you run every day, chances are you will get it at some point. There are, however, some precautions you can take to decrease your chances of getting it or to reduce the severity of the injury.
1. You should be hitting around 170 to 190 strides a minute. Make sure you are not over extending your legs and that your steps are short and quick. Essentially, when you over-stride, you are forcing your body to bounce up and down, causing more wear and tear on the knee.
2. The right type of shoe is everything. You want something that will absorb the impact when you run, otherwise your joints will be the ones paying the price. Make sure you talk to a foot specialist about the type of shoes that your feet require and remember to change them out once their shoe life is up.
3. If you are trying to go from a 5K to a half marathon overnight, you’re going to have some issues. Gradually increase your training, allowing your body to adjust to its new routine.
4. Running on concrete increases the amount of impact your knees are absorbing every time you put a foot down. Try to run on smoother, softer surfaces, that can help absorb some of the impact.
Being injured is never fun, but if you do not take the necessary steps to rest and heal, you could be looking at a long-term injury that will require extreme methods, like surgery or a cessation of running activity all together.
Self-treatment for runner's knee will follow the RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate.
It is vital that you don't strain yourself during this period. As frustrating as it is to take some time off from running, it will help you in the long run. You'll want to avoid running, lunging, squatting, and standing or walking for long periods of time. How long you need to rest will be up to how severe the injury is and what your physician says.
Ice your knee for 10-20 minutes every 4-5 hours for as long as there is pain. The ice will help soothe the inflamed muscles and speed up the healing process.
Wrap your knee with elastic bandages, runner's tape, patellar straps, or sleeves. These help stabilize the muscle while also allowing more blood to flow, thereby enabling a quicker recovery. You should do this for about a week unless your physician says otherwise.
When laying down, prop your leg up on a pillow or two. You want it to be about 6-12 inches above the heart. This allows for better blood flow and less strain on your leg. Ideally, you want to elevate your leg for 2-3 hours. If that isn't possible, shoot for a minimum of 15-20 minutes.