Undoubtedly one of the most common types of pain experienced by runners, and others who are physically active is Runner’s Knee. You don’t actually have to be a runner to experience Runner’s Knee so that is why us physios prefer to call it Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS). This term is used to describe a number of knee issues that involve pain around, slightly under or above the kneecap.
It is very common, affecting 1 in 4 people, and can really hamper your training and everyday life.
The pain is usually worse when running, climbing and descending stairs or hills, squatting or even sitting with the knee in the one position for a long time. Often the onset of pain is gradual and can be caused by several factors such as structural or biomechanical problems, training methods, footwear, technique or running style.
If left untreated and with a bit of rest, sometimes knee pain goes away. But, if these underlying causes are not addressed, it will more than likely return. A recent clinical practice guideline developed by the Journal Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy (link here) found that people with kneecap pain should engage in a physiotherapy treatment program. The researchers stated that…
“Physiotherapists play an important role in helping people understand why their knees may hurt and in helping them recover quicker and stay active.”
While proposed passive fixes for knee pain such as having injections, creams, using machines and even undergoing surgery might sound appealing, they rarely work and are not necessarily effective.
The best results are found in patients who undergo an exercise-therapy program with their physio, mainly to strengthening the knee and hip muscles. The risk of kneecap pain can be reduced through improving leg strength, particularly of the thigh muscles (the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes).
The guidelines found that the best way to avoid PFPS in the first place is to have a training program that gradually increases activities such as running, exercise classes, sports or walking. If you are planning to take up a new fitness regime and start to feel some knee pain, chatting to your physio is the best way to combat these pains and prevent them becoming a bigger issue that may affect your health and fitness goals.
Maddy is a physio at our Caringbah practice. Maddy sees patients in our practice, and runs our Small Group Exercise Classes.