Knee Pain Causes & Prevention Tips For Runners
Throughout my running career, I’ve endured anyone’s fair share of injuries. Knee pain is the most annoying of them all, and it has kept me on the bench for more than once. That’s how I learned that I should never take running for granted and I should perform the necessary actions to prevent knee pain as much as possible.
What hurts the knees?
The answer varies from runner to runner. It may be caused by the back, hip and the sciatic nerve. In some cases, it’s all about running too much or taking up a challenge before you’re body is fit enough. Sometimes the reason resides in the high number of strides. This usually takes time to convert into knee pain, but when it does, it’s totally unpleasant.
What can be said with certainty is that reasons are somehow split in two. It’s either a physical issue or a training habit that may lead you to that dragging knee pain.
What kind of knee pain is there?
Here are a few types of pain you are prone to endure. If you’re feeling some kind of stiffness over the front or inner side of the kneecap and if the pain increases as you decline, but still it fades away a few minutes after you’ve started running, you may have Patellofemoral pain. What you should do is decrease distance and intensity, and also avoid running up the hills.
Next, there is the Iliotibial band syndrome that is quite easy to identify: when the outside of your knee is stiff, tender or aches. This is mostly common among those who run on the track on a regular basis, usually training for marathons. What you can do is take anti-inflammatory with 1 or 2 hours prior to your run and stretch before and after the run. Of course, you should reduce the number of miles and the intensity level too.
Patellar tendonitis is an awful type of knee pain. It actually represents an inflammation of the joint tendons when tissue regrowth is slower than tissue damage. The highest incidence occurs among runners who increase mileage, who run downhill or increase pace. It usually manifests through a pain below the kneecap and gets worse during running.
An ACL injury or tear is another cause of debilitating knee pain that many runners will experience. Unfortunately the ACL doesn’t always heal well on its own when injured, which often leads to an unstable knee that will cause knee pain and increase your risk of injury when running or performing simple daily tasks such as crouching or walking up stairs. An ACL tear will more often than not require ACL reconstruction surgery. See your doctor right away if you suspect you’ve injured your ACL. ACL injuries may be accompanied by meniscus or articular cartilage damage or lead to further knee problems down the road if left unchecked.
There is one more type of pain that you need to be aware of, the awful osteoarthritis. It is as bad as it sounds. It represents the tear of the cartilage, but you can still engage in moderate walks and runs. What you must do is reduce the number of miles and the pace when symptoms occur: swollen knee and a nasty ache below the kneecap.
Recent studies have shown that running actually keeps down the risk of joint degradation or osteoarthritis. Yet, if you suffer from it, you must pay extra attention to your training intensity.
What can you do to prevent knee pain?
Since knee pain is a nasty feeling every runner experienced at some point, specialists thought of creating something that is easy to use, comfortable and greatly efficient. Maybe you’ve heard by now about the knee tape, which is an athletic adhesive that absorbs most of the stress on the patellar tendon. What this tape does is accelerate healing, without interfering with your range of motion. The mechanics are simple: the tape pulls the skin up, this way enabling blood flow to the damaged part of your knee.
It’s recommended that someone shows you how to put it on, there are details you must consider when applying it. Once it’s on, it will last for up to 5 days. Yes, you can take as many showers as you want. You may want to opt for the black one, it looks cool even with dribbling sweat. I’ve tried it and it has been efficient.
Other measures you can take are strength training, wear a knee brace, wear an orthotic, definitely wear running shoes for your foot type, replace worn shoes, rotate laps when running on a track, put some ice on, cross train, stretch before and after workout, strengthen the joints and leg muscles, focus on quads, shins and gluteals and also take nutritional supplements.
Another aspect that many runners tend to obliterate is the ankles. Ankles have a major role in preventing knee pain. As ankles gain mobility, knees are more able to absorb force properly. Don’t worry, ankle issues are easy to fix. All you need is to maintain a certain warm-up routine, specifically designed for stronger ankles.
I know you won’t like me saying this, but when you feel like there’s too much pressure on the knees and the pain does not disappear after 1-2 days of rest, stop. Maybe you’re running the marathon, maybe you’re so close to your target, maybe you’re just too stubborn. Don’t be. Just stop and visit a doctor if the pain persists.
Running is great, but knee pain can be a mischief. My advice to you is to keep your eyes open for any symptom that may arise. If you do something to cure the pain as soon as it kicks in, the job is half done.
Knee Pain Causes and Prevention Tips For Runners: References
1. Cymet, T.C., and V. Sinkov. Does long-distance running cause osteoarthritis? Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 2006.
2. Beth Dreher, Runner’s World Magazine, Tape Yourself: Runner’s Knee, February 2009 issue