Tennis elbow, athlete’s foot, golfer’s elbow… it seems that every sport you might enjoy can end up causing you injuries and ironically making you less fit and well. One of the most common of these is ‘runner’s knee’ which can affect anyone who likes jogging or sprinting, but which can also impact those of us who just enjoy a brisk walk every now and then. Here we will look at what runner’s knee is, what causes it and how to address it. What is Runner’s Knee? Runner’s knee is actually not one condition but a whole series of conditions that can be caused by running. This basically describes any situation where the patella (or knee cap to you and me) doesn’t ‘track’ properly across the joint which can lead to discomfort and weakness. Running creates a lot of impact on the joint, and over time this can cause damage in the way it functions. Dealing with this quickly is an important way to prevent the loss of cartilage and to get you running again. Prevention Better than a cure of course is to prevent the problem in the first place which can be accomplished through a combination of correct technique and proper precaution. To avoid impacts on the knees you should try using padded shoes and running on softer surfaces such as grass or sand. Likewise you should aim to run on an incline – particularly on a treadmill – as this can remove some of the strain from your knee. Of course generally stretching and practicing your gait can also help a great deal. Treatment If it’s too late for prevention and you found this article because you’re currently struggling with the condition then there are some ways you can treat the problem. The first is to try wearing a support. This can aid the knee in tracking and take some of the weight off of it and it will give you time to recover. General rest is of course also advisable, so avoid running for a while and keep the leg elevated to give it time to heal. If you have swelling then icing the joint can help a great deal. Meanwhile you should try to exercise the joint. By strengthening the muscles and tendons in the area you can encourage proper movement and avoid painful twists and slips. Use a zero-impact form of exercise such as riding an exercise bike (or lying on your back and ‘pedalling’ in the air), and consider using gentle stretches to regain your full range of motion. One good one is to simply stand with your bad leg in front and slightly bent then to try leaning gradually forward. Be careful when stretching or using any exercise though and make sure to consult with a doctor first. Better yet, use stretches given to you by a trained professional such as a physiotherapist, or try using a form of gentle exercise designed for rehabilitation such as yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi to gently get yourself back to full strength.
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