If you are having pain in the front of your knee around your kneecap then you may be dealing with a condition called patellofemoral pain syndrome (PPS). This painful and frustrating condition is colloquially referred to as “runner’s knee” as it commonly affects athletes and runners. However, this injury does not discriminate and it can occur in people who are not athletes too. It can lead to more complicated and severe injuries such as kneecap dislocation if left untreated.
There are numerous things that can contribute to developing runner’s knee. Overuse is a common factor, often from participating in vigorous exercise and athletics. Activities that primarily require repetitive movements put stress on the knee, such as climbing stairs, jogging, or squatting for example. Suddenly changing the intensity, frequency or amount of physical activity that you participate in can also lead to patellofemoral pain syndrome. Using bad exercise techniques or incorrectly using training equipment may also lead to runner’s knee.
PPS often involves degrading cartilage that is meant to help absorb the impacts that are put on the knee joint. Once this cartilage degradation occurs past a certain point, your femur and your kneecap will begin contacting or bumping into each other which will cause pain and irritation.
Malalignment of your ankle, hips, or legs can cause your kneecap to shift and that shift can also result in patellofemoral pain syndrome. Weakness or imbalance of the muscles that are found in the front of your thighs, your quadriceps, may cause your kneecap not to track correctly within the knee mechanism which can contribute to runner’s knee development. This could also lead to a patellar dislocation in the future if left untreated.
With this syndrome the most common symptom is often pain in your kneecap, usually presenting an aching or dull pain that flares up with activity. You may have pain when doing exercises that cause you to repeatedly bend and straighten your knee such as jumping or running. Your pain may intensify when changing your activity level or changing your playing or running surface.
With runner’s knee, symptoms and pain are not only apparent while you are engaged in physical activities. You may also have pain after spending an extended period of time sitting down or with your knees bent. Another symptom you may experience is an audible cracking or popping sound from your knees when standing up and climbing stairs.
Most treatments and tools used to treat PPS are designed to alleviate pain and rebuild strength. It is always a good idea to get your knees looked at by a doctor, in the most extreme cases of PPS surgery may be necessary. Many cases are treatable at home though by icing your knee and using compression therapy. If possible keep your knees elevated while sleeping and make sure to allow yourself time to rest.
Runner’s knee does not always mean that you cannot continue running or exercising, just be sure to do so safely. There are tools that can help you stay mobile such as insoles that help absorb impact and knee straps for running that stabilize and support your kneecap and patellar tendon. Knee straps may be small but the amount of pain relief and knee support they provide is often huge.
They are thin bands normally made out of materials that are designed to be both non-slip and breathable. These straps are designed to wrap around your leg just below the curve of your knee and fasten right under your kneecap. Their location plays a big role in how the function, by being worn below the knee they are able to stabilize your knee cap and provide you with some extra support to your patellar tendon. In essence, knee straps help reduce your pain and allow you to continue running and heal from PPS.
You can find both insoles and knee straps online or at your local pharmacy, they can also be found at running shops and some gyms. Your doctor may also be able to recommend what type of insoles and knee straps could help you most and where to find them.