No runner wants to hear the words “patellofemoral syndrome” (commonly called ‘runner’s knee’) from a doctor. Pain behind the kneecap can quickly sideline you from your training, presenting a challenge when it comes to improving fitness – or even holding onto the fitness you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
Here are some tips to help you identify, treat and prevent runner’s knee, so you can start running again as soon as possible. If you are experiencing pain of any kind, always make sure to consult a medical professional for diagnosis and to develop a treatment plan.
What Is PFS?
Patellofemoral syndrome is a general term for damage to the cartilage behind your patella (kneecap). This damage can be mild to severe, and is typically aggravated by activities like running or walking up stairs.
Dull, aching knee pain is a typical symptom of runner’s knee. You might find that the pain increases when you sit in a stationary position with your knee(s) bent for a long period of time, when you kneel or squat, or when you climb or descend stairs.
In many cases of runner’s knee, simple home remedies can help to improve comfort. Try to give your knee as much rest as possible. It can be frustrating to skip a handful of training sessions, but remember that trying to “push through” the pain of runner’s knee can result in even more pain and damage to your knee.
If your discomfort doesn’t subside with a few days of rest and icing, you might talk to a physical therapist about possible exercises that you can safely do to strengthen the muscles in your leg that support your knee. In very extreme cases of PFS, surgery can be necessary to correct the problem.
The best treatment for runner’s knee is to avoid getting it in the first place. Keep these simple steps in mind to help keep knee pain at bay:
- Stay Strong: Incorporate some strength training exercises for your quadriceps and hip abductor muscles. These muscles support your knee when you move, and help to stabilize it. Go here for a few quadriceps workouts and here for some hip abductor strengthening exercises.
- Check Technique: Working with a running coach to improve your running technique can keep you from developing poor form that can damage your knees.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: Carrying extra pounds puts more impact on your joints when you run, so maintaining a healthy weight can help you run without pain. If you’re outside a healthy weight range, talk with your doctor to develop a plan to meet your fitness goals.