Knee pain is an ailment that will strike most active people at some point in their life. Runners, jumpers, and cyclists are particularly susceptible because of the repetitive nature of their sport. Specifically, the knee pain I will discuss today is pain just above, at, or below the knee cap (patella), and it is also known as “Runner’s Knee”. Repetitive flexion and extension is a culprit of runner’s knee, though not to be blamed for the pain.
Common causes of Runner’s knee, also known as patellofemoral syndrome include:
Flat or weak feet: flattened feet (pronated feet) are usually a result of weakness in the small muscles that make up the arches of the foot, and help to accept strain transmitted to the body during walking or running. The best way to strengthen feet is by doing a towel scrunch exercise: sit in a chair with your feet overlying a handtowel. Grip the towel with your toes and mid-foot, hold 5 seconds, repeat 10 times, 3 times per day.
Overly tight quadriceps muscles: the quadriceps muscles are a group of muscles that attach to the knee cap. When they are tight,as they often are in runners and cyclists, they place a strain through the tendon that attaches to the knee cap resulting in a dull ache. Stretching the quads after running can help to keep these muscles mobile and prevent restriction causing pain. Foam rolling the quadriceps and IT bands are also effective in maintaining proper mobility in the knee. See my previous post on IT Bands for more information on this.
Weak hip muscles: Weakness in the hips leads to greater strain and poor control of the knee cap. See my Leg Strength workout for great hip strength.
Other alignment issues: some people are predisposed to pain at the knee cap due to the alignment of their joints and bones. A physical therapist is instrumental in identifying this and providing treatment and ideas for optimization of this alignment.
There are other treatments available in physical therapy that are designed to decrease the pain you are already in, and treat the underlying cause. Additionally, your physical therapist can educate you in methods to prevent this injury from occurring again in the future. The above list of causes, treatments, and exercises are not exhaustive, and there are many other treatments available.
Most importantly, recognize that this injury very rarely goes and stays away without some form of intervention. Take an early start to prevention and address pain when it begins, and do not let it become a chronic issue.
Take care, and Make your day great!
Amanda Olson, DPT