The term “Runner’s Knee” is a general label relating to a number of knee conditions. You may also see it referred to as patellofemoral pain syndrome (or PFPS). If you suffer from it, you’ll identify with the pain around or behind your kneecap, especially when it becomes pronounced after repetitive exercise such as squats or running.
Don’t Push Through the Pain
As an athlete, either well practiced or well intentioned, acute pain shouldn’t be part of your workout. While anti-inflammatory medication and ice might make it less debilitating, resist the urge to use that as a tool to push through the pain. If you’re having persistent knee pain, get it evaluated as soon as possible.
Note that the discomfort associated with PFPS typically begins as an ache, especially following high levels of activity, and grows into a more persistent soreness. Sometimes it is more painful after long periods of sitting when your quads are resting and failing to support the knee. Other times it might become irritated while climbing stairs or when you wake in the morning. Regardless of when you notice it, continuing to repeat the motions to blame can set you up for longer recovery time and potentially a deeper level of damage.
Understand it’s Not Fully Understood
It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis regarding your knee pain to eliminate the possibility of torn cartilage, arthritis, osteoporosis, or gout. Once PFPS has been identified, though, physical therapy is a very useful tool to get you back into the game. There are myriad causes for PFPS and, in the end, they all have the same result, knee pain. That means that you may not get a clear image of how the problem started. Misalignment, muscle weakness, and imbalance are just a few things that can cause your kneecap to shift, and that can generate pain from grinding bones or swelling. It’s most often seen in athletes who run and jump during exercise or those who regularly perform deep squats as part of work or play. Whatever the cause, the fact is that once your knee displays the symptoms of Runner’s Knee, the focus shifts to how to fix it and keep it from happening again.
What to Expect from PT
Your visit will begin with a conversation about your symptoms followed by an evaluation. Your PT may ask you to lie down, stand up, perform twisting motions, walk across the room, bend over, and similar activities. All of these actions allow the PT to evaluate your range of motion, gait, flexibility, balance, and strength. The result of this analysis will help your physical therapist diagnose PFPS and formulate a plan for strengthening and stretching.
The Answer May Not Be What You Expect
Although the pain is in your knee, there’s a host of options that may be causing that irritation. From a tight hip to issues with foot alignment, anything along the line can be the root of the problem. That means your treatment may focus on hip mobility or alignment. Perhaps your PT will suggest shoe inserts. Maybe you’ll find yourself focusing on body parts that seem unrelated, like your pelvis. Likely your program will focus on strengthening certain muscles while relieving tightness in others. It’s never a one-plan-fits-all scenario with physical therapy because each body and each ailment is different. That’s why it’s urgent that you put yourself in the hands of a professional that can identify how to strengthen, align, and relieve the pain associated with Runner’s Knee.