woman runner holding knee in pain

How to Maintain Strong Knees as a Runner

What is Runners Knee?

Runners Knee, also known as Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) is a broad term used to describe the condition that occurs most often in… you guessed it! Runners. PFPS is frequently characterized by dull pain in the front of the knee and surrounding the patella or kneecap. It's not always related to the same set of causes, but it's always painful and aggravated by exercise like running or a variety of other higher-impact activities. 

Runners Knee Causes 

Runner's Knee is caused by several problems within the knee structure and surrounding muscles and tendons. The first and most common cause is overuse. The knee is a highly complex joint and involves many moving parts to function properly day in and day out. When extreme stress is placed on the knee through excessive exercise, overexertion, and general overuse, non-specific pain can develop in this area. In some cases of runner's knee, it can indicate various kinds of physical damage or structural issue in the knee. Sprain – minor tears in the muscles and ligaments that help move the knee can be a cause of pain in this area as well. Finally, misalignment or imbalance in the bones and muscles of the knee can cause pain too. Maligned bones in the knee can lead to unusual friction and irritation in the knee joint damaging the cartilage, bone, and muscle in the surrounding areas. Similarly, when thigh muscles – specifically the hamstring and quadricep are imbalanced or tight, painful overextension of the muscles can occur. 

Runners Knee Treatments 

There's a variety of easy at-home treatments that you can try to find relief for your knee pain and runner’s knee. First, when experiencing knee pain of any kind, it’s important to avoid placing any further unnecessary stress on the joint in question. This could mean skipping a couple of days at the gym, going easy at practice, or simply making sure not to lift heavy items around the house. Secondly, try the RICE method: rest, ice, compress, and elevate. This routine can hasten recovery and has proven immensely helpful for most injuries. Finally, find a pain relief regimen that works. Whether it's green tea and ginger, Ibuprofen, or topical analgesics like Ice Plus, it's important to know what works for you. If home remedies don't suffice, or your pain is severe, you may need intervention from a medical professional. Some of the most common medical treatments for knee injuries include splints and casts, walking with crutches, and in more serious cases surgery or joint injections. If you're unsure what treatment your knee pain might need, speak to a doctor about what’s right for you. 

Ways to Prevent Injury 

One of the most important considerations for the prevention of knee injuries is how we exercise or choose to stress and avoid stress on our muscles and joints. All forms of exercise involve stressing and pushing our muscles and joints, the key is to make this a progressive and gradual practice, allowing our muscles to build balanced strength and mobility/flexibility before we try anything too far outside our usual routines. Experts on training for running sometimes recommend cross-training, such as weight lifting interspersed with running to build overall strength in the knee and leg muscles. It's also important to remember when training as a runner, baselines vary from person to person. It's recommended that you measure yourself in time rather than distance especially when you start. 

Some additional best practices for avoiding injury as a runner is making sure to stretch frequently and extensively surrounding your workouts. Stretching has a wide range of benefits for the body and is especially important before intense workouts like running. Stretching allows for the muscles to warm up slowly, increasing elasticity and flexibility and reducing the chances of injury during exercise. Stretching can also increase blood flow to the muscles we use in exercise, allowing them to receive more of the crucial oxygenation and hydration they require to work at their highest potential, so stretching can boost performance by a substantial margin.

With your muscles properly stretched and warmed up, and a well-thought-out workout goal, you’re most of the way to a smarter, less injury-prone running routine. At the end of this blog, we’ll provide a few exercises that can help build and maintain healthy knees, but first, it's important to make sure you’ve got the right gear for the job. Running is what we call a high-impact activity meaning it involves lots of force being applied to the body throughout. To help reduce the potential for damage caused by force during a run, one of the most important variables is the level of shock absorption in your shoes. It's important to wear comfortable, well-fitting, and sport-specific running shoes. The more shock absorbed by your sneakers, the less shock you’ll have to absorb in your knees and that’s worth the investment. 

Runners Knee Exercises: Maintaining Strong and Healthy Knees  

We’ve provided a link to some of the best runner’s knee exercises to strengthen your legs at the knee joint, reduce your chance of patellofemoral pain and injury, and keep those knees healthy and strong. Remember, new exercises should always be done slowly and with extra focus on maintaining proper form. Prioritize performing the movements correctly over doing the correct amount of reps. Strengthening your knees might take time! If you're currently experiencing pain in your knee consider seeking out medical advice from a doctor or physical therapist to find a recovery plan that best suits your needs.

 


 

The information on Ice Plus Magazine Blog is provided for educational purposes only, and is in no way intended to diagnose, endorse, cure, or treat any medical or other condition. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professionals and ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your medical condition. Ice Plus and the Editors are not responsible for the accuracy of information provided to the Ice Plus Magazine Blog by contributing authors and institutions or for the use of any information on Iceplusrelief.com. Thank you for reading our blog. You can shop for all Ice Plus Relief products here.