Runner’s knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome, is one of the most common overuse injuries. This malady isn’t reserved only for runners but rather can result from many sports including skiers, soccer players, or any other sport that put high demands on your knee. It occurs when patella, better known as your knee cap, causes irritation of the femur, or the large bone underlying the muscles of your thigh and hamstrings. Normally the ligaments and muscles of your leg hold everything in proper alignment allowing the two bones to glide past one another. There are several factors that can contribute to ‘throw a wrench’ in this efficient function.
Overuse can cause muscles to weaken and put you at risk for injury. Without proper periods of rest and nutrition, our bodies cannot build or repair the muscles fibers that are affected during our runs. 24 hours between runs, with a good night’s rest and a decent diet are often enough to prevent overuse, but each of us are different and need to make adjustments accordingly. Additionally, our muscle groups almost always pull against or counteract another group. When we fail to work both groups appropriately, one group may gain an advantage over the other. Unfortunately, imbalance or weakness in any of the components that act on your knee can lead to this pain condition.
Prevention can be as simple as running smart. Allow for sufficient rest and slowly increase the distances you run. In addition to eliminating the overuse component by doing this, you can be proactive in keeping your muscles strong and preventing imbalance. Implementing strengthening exercises for your lower limbs is just as important as stretching when it comes to preventing runner’s knee. We recommend exercises to strengthen your ‘quadriceps’ and ‘hamstrings’ as they act on your knee. Keeping these two muscles groups stretched and strong will do a lot to keep imbalance from occurring. Problems can always occur despite your best efforts. When a few days rest don’t improve the pain, make a visit to see your Austin podiatrist. There are a variety of bracing or shoe inserts that can be used to keep you in proper alignment and allow your painful knee to resolve.