You are an amateur runner and push yourself hard to train for the marathon that is going to take place in the following month. You assume that you are in a fine physical shape and ignore minute aches and pain out of blind determination. On one such morning, your knee begins to ache more than usual and you are reduced to walking. You visit your doctor and find that you have been diagnosed with chondromalacia or runner’s knee. This condition is one of the most common injuries faced by long distance runners and everyday, orthopedic clinics are busy with such cases. The main symptom of runner’s knee is acute pain and swelling in the knee, which often intensifies when running downhill or when walking downstairs.
The cause of the pain in runner’s knee is the irritation of the smooth layer of cartilage found on the underside of the kneecap. The irritation is caused due to friction from the kneecap rubbing against the joint. Unlike the case of arthritis, in which cartilage degeneration takes place, chondromalacia is only blistering of the cartilage and can therefore be restored. Surprisingly, the problem is found more commonly in young and athletic people. Moreover, women are more susceptible to it than men, supposedly because of the difference in their anatomy, where women have more lateral forces putting pressure on their knees. Read further to find out more about runner’s knee and its prevention as well as treatment.
Runner's Knee Diagnosis
One of the ways to find out if you have runner’s knee is to sit down and stretch your leg out straight, onto another chair. Ask a friend to squeeze the portion of your leg that is just above your knee, while pushing the kneecap at the same time. Make sure your leg is pushed from outside, towards the centre. While this is being done, tighten your thigh muscles. If this results in pain, it is strongly possible that you are suffering from the problem of runner’s knee.
Runner's Knee Prevention
It is always advisable to undergo professional training in order to avoid injuries. Some of the preventive steps that will help you keep runner’s knee at bay, are:
- It is important to do warm up and stretches properly, before running. In order to strengthen and protect hamstring, quadriceps and calf muscles, stretching is necessary. While stretching, remember to hold each stretch for around 30 seconds and then loosen up slowly. You could repeat this 2 to 3 times a day.
- Remember to choose the right shoes for running, as they play an important part in maintaining the health of your legs and feet.
- If you are running on unpaved roads, try to run on the flattest stretch, to minimize the shock.
- Do not indulge in running downhill excessively, as it applies more pressure on the joints.
- Avoid overdoing exercises. Anything over done is bound to cause trouble, so know the limits of your body.
- Formulate a training programme that progresses gradually and has sufficient rest involved too.
Runner's Knee Treatment
Some of the home remedies that could be tried in case of runner’s knee are:
- Apply ice to the swollen area every 2 hours, for 10 minutes at a time. This will help reduce the swelling and irritation.
- Take proper rest and do not exert the affected leg. Whenever possible, keep your foot elevated and avoid heavy weight activities.
- Regularly massage the sore area 2 to 3 times a day. You could use an anti-inflammatory gel or arnica oil to get better results.
If self-help techniques do not work and the pain persists after 2 weeks, consult your physiotherapist or orthopedic surgeon and get medical attention. There are many medical procedures that are done to treat severe cases of runner’s knee, such as surgery to carve cartilages and ease the pain.
It is common for long distance runners to develop chondromalacia or runner’s knee. However, with a proper training plan and right shoes, it is possible to prevent such an ailment.