Knee pain, especially at the front of the knee and under the kneecap, is a common condition often called patellofemoral joint pain or anterior knee pain.
Put simply it is an irritation of the cartilage on the underside of the patella (kneecap). It typically flares up during or after long runs and other high endurance activities. Knee injuries are the most common injury to runners and easily treated if caught early.
Common symptoms include:
- pain with squats/lunges
- difficulty climbing and descending stairs
- even pain when sitting for long periods with your knees bent
- there may also be swelling or weakness that is gradually getting worse
There are a number of factors which can cause this anterior knee pain from poor movement when running/squatting to tight muscles in the outside of the thigh and calf to even poor alignment of the feet. These factors may have been lingering for many years but only become a problem when you increase exercise volume or work levels.
Runner’s knee research
According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine this injury occurs more frequently among women than men. This is because women have wider hips than men so the angle of the thighbone in relation to the knee puts more pressure on the patella.
The main complaint among those with runner’s knee is pain either underneath or on each side of the kneecap. Other symptoms include swelling of the knees, increased pain after exerting the knee, popping sensations and a grinding noise. Anterior knee pain is often precipitated by an increase in mileage or training intensity and you can run with it but do expect a some winces of pain. Taking extra rest days and reducing your overall mileage will speed up recovery.
Runner’s knee is a very common injury caused by improper hip and foot placement while running. Weak quads, hamstrings or hip abductors can all cause knee discomfort. A brace or support won’t be the solution but it may increase comfort temporarily.
Footwear is a major factor that can contribute to runner’s knee. If you have recently changed make/model of the trainers you used and purchased some based on the style and colour is often a precipitator to anterior knee pain because they lack in support. If you have changed trainers go back to your previous model or visit a reputable running shop for a footwear assessment. Many people also run in old trainers but you should be renewing them every 500-600 miles. Refreshing your trainers means constant cushioning.
Over pronation is also an issue and is caused when the feet turn inward on impact. This causes the kneecap to rotate in a sideways direction and affects the cartilage of the knee. Are your quads strong enough? Weak quadriceps (thigh) muscles can also misalign the patella as well as tight hamstring/calf muscles.
If you are experiencing knee pain try a few of the following Physio Tips:
- Ice your knees for 15-20 mins after each workout/work day.
- Decrease the incline on the treadmill or walk on flat areas instead of hills, this will reduce the rolling of the feet.
- Do small range (pain free) squats – instead of lunges in your training program, sometimes even the weight of the body in a lunge is too much for weakened thigh muscles to stabilize.
- Ensure you are wearing proper supportive shoes during your workout and replace them regularly.
- Is your knee pain getting your down? Well, the good news is that the majority of knee pain issues can be effectively treated with a range of Physio designed exercises and stretches but beware, the longer you leave a problem the harder it gets to fix.