The Premier Chartered Physiotherapy & Sports Injuries Practice in South Dublin
Modern, purpose built treatment rooms and dedicated customer parking
Established since 2004
Open 6 Days a week: Mon to Fri 8am - 8pm & Sat 10am to 1pm
+353 1 2137000 info@totalphysio.ie31 Sandyford Office Park

Runners Knee

Don’t get bamboozled on the internet when you look up your symptoms…..you’ll see talk of patellofemoral pain syndrome, chondromalacia patella, peripatellar pain, retropatellar pain, anterior knee pain and of course, the umbrella term of runners’ knee….. All these terms describe the same injury - a gradual onset of vague pain around the patella (kneecap) area.

Q.Who typically suffers with this knee pain and how does it start?
A.The typical sufferer is a runner who is increasing their mileage. Pain begins as a vague soreness around or behind the patella. It is often triggered by a long run or from a knock to the kneecap. It can also be aggravated by repeated hill running or running up the stairs. In the early stages, your pain will settle during your run and return when you stop or later on that day. At this stage, many people keep running as they feel it must not be a serious problem if the pain goes away when they run.

Q. But if my pain eases when I run, surely the running is helping it?
A. No! Unfortunately that is not the case. The fact that there is pain at all should make you take notice. Continuing to run with pain will make your pain much worse, and very quickly. Eventually severe pain, and often swelling, will develop and stop you in your tracks. Once you are at this stage of injury, it is much harder to return to full, pain free running.

Q. What causes this knee pain?
A. The cause of this is a “tracking” abnormality of the patella. As the knee bends and straightens, the patella moves (or tracks) up and down in a groove of bone on the bottom end of the femur bone. The balance between the muscles on the inside and outside of the knee is important.

There are several ways the tracking of the patella can be disrupted. Tight structures on the outside of your knee can disrupt that balance, such as the Iliotibial band (ITB), the lateral part of your quads, or weakness in the inside part of the quads muscle (VMO).With any of these conditions, the patella will move laterally as the knee flexes. This causes pain under the patella.

Biomechanical malalignment can disrupt the balance of the patella. Your medial arch profile, ankle and shin bone position will influence this. You’ll be amazed when you see what effect moving your medial arch has on your whole leg and knee alignment!

Poor core stability and weak hip muscles are very common causes of problems in runners. Weakness in these areas may cause the femur to rotate inwards, which affects the position of the groove in which the patella moves. This gradually wears down the thick cartilage behind the patella to cause pain.

Q. So what should I do if I am a runner with knee pain?
A. It is vital to have an assessment asap. We will look above the knee joint (at your core, pelvis and hip) and below the knee joint (at your shin bones and feet), as well as at the knee joint itself to make sure the cause of your injury is found and dealt with. Treatment must be specific to you according to your body, your weaknesses, your muscle imbalances, your training programme and your competition goals. A one size fits all rehabilitation programme does not work; it will delay your recovery and frustrate you. So don’t just do your mate’s exercises!

Verdict on Runners’ knee:
A right pain to deal with if you ignore it, so nip it in the bud QUICK!
If you think you have runners' knee, just give us a call on 01 2137000 and we can talk about the best options for you.

Jenny talks about Runners' knee for Bootcamp Ireland