Runner’s knee is something you hear fairly regularly in the running world. It is something that can seriously hamper your training or leave you completely sidelined. But what exactly causes this phenomenon known as the “runner’s knee” and, more importantly, how you can prevent and avoid it in the first place.
What exactly is Runner’s Knee?
If you’re a fairly new runner, you’ve probably heard of the term “runner’s knee”. But what exactly is it? Now runner’s knee is actually a bit of an umbrella term for one of several conditions that can cause this discomfort or pain around the kneecap patella region. But as the name suggests, a runner’s knee is most commonly caused by running, but actually, any activity that stresses the knee joint could be a cause of this disorder. So it could be walking, could be skiing, could be jumping, could even be playing football.
If you were to have a runner’s knee what you would experience is perhaps a dull aching feeling above, below, or even behind the kneecap. You may even experience some swelling, or you may even get some cracking, popping, or grinding sort of feeling or sensation within the knee. This is all caused by an irritation of the soft tissue or lining of the knee. You can even have worn or torn cartridges, or you could have some strained tendons. Obviously, this is not something any of us want, or if you do actually have some ongoing issues with the runner’s knee, then you probably want to know how to prevent it.
1. Gradually increase your training volume and intensity
Regardless of runner’s knee, that is just good training advice full stop. You should never dramatically increase any of your training. You should always be making sure that it’s done incrementally. In fact, all experts in increasing mileage, often mention the 10% rule. What that is referring to is that you should never increase your training or volume by more than 10% per week. So for instance, if you’re currently running 30 minutes at a steady aerobic pace, the following week you’d run 33 minutes, and then the third week 36 to 37 minutes, and then after a month of running you should be up to running around 40 to 45 minutes.
That is actually just a good rule of thumb across all the sports, swimming, cycling, running, and even exercises that you’re doing in the gym.
2. Kneeling Hip Flexor/Quad Stretch
Here are a few really important stretches that you should really keep on top of if you’re a runner.
The first one is a kneeling hip flexor and quad stretch. This is great because it hits a couple of really big key areas at once. Plus its just easy to do in front of the TV. By doing this stretch, you should notice that pretty much instantly it relieves the pressure in your knee and the joint.
So get into a knee length lunge position with one knee on the floor and the other leg bent 90 degrees in front of you. This is your starting position. Squeezing your glutes, shift your body weight slightly forward while maintaining an upright torso. Reach around to grab your foot with your hand and increase the stretch. Hold this for 20 to 30 seconds.
Obviously, if your knee is sore, then make sure it is well cushioned, or you can always stand up and put your knee of the sofa behind you.
3. Glute Stretch
The glute is actually the largest muscle in the human body, so by improving the flexibility in this muscle, we will undoubtedly help to easy any knee pain by preventing any overuse or even by improving on any limited movement that might be the cause.
Lie face up on the floor with your knees and hips bent. Place your right ankle across your left thigh. Grab your left thigh with both hands and pull it gently towards your chest. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and then switch legs.
4. Standing Wall Calf Stretch
The third one is a calve stretch. Stand on the edge of a curb or step and place your left foot on the ground, keeping the ball of your right foot on the step. Allow your right heel to drop below the step and hold here for 20 to 30 seconds and then switch sides.
5. Use a foam roller
It is essentially the best way to loosen off the tightness in your body. Lie on your right side and place the foam roller just below your right hip. Cross your left leg over and place it on the ground in front of you. Keep your right hand or forearm on the ground to stabilize yourself, and then using that left leg, you can push yourself down the foam roller, stopping just above your right knee. Repeat the same motion but back up towards your hip. Do this as many times as you feel necessary and then switch over and repeat on the other leg.
6. Strength and stability: Single leg squats
When we’re running, we’re essentially hopping from one leg to the other, so it’s really important that we’re solid and we’re stable on one leg at a time. So a really good exercise for this is the single leg squat. This is fantastic because it not only helps to improve the strength in both the glutes but also it activates the quads and basically all the muscles in the lower limb.
So when you are performing this, the idea isn’t just to go for the deepest squat possible. You actually want to execute the squat really well and make sure that everything’s really well aligned. That means the hips are level and the knee tracks nicely over the foot.
Stand with both feet pointing forwards, hip width apart. Lift your left foot off the ground and balance on your right foot. Now bend your right leg and slowly lower yourself, making sure your knee doesn’t go past your foot or lean forwards. Push back up slowly to your starting position. Start off with three sets of five reps per leg, and overtime this can be increased or even performed on an unstable ground
7. Strength and stability: Single leg lifts
Get on your side, support yourself on your elbow and your knee closest to the ground by bending your leg behind you. Make sure your hips are level and legs are stacked on top of each other. Then with a straight top leg, raise it off the floor to a comfortable height without moving the rest of yourself. Then, slowly drop that leg back down. Start off with three sets of five reps per leg.
8. Strength and stability: Clam Shell
This will ultimately help to prevent the knees from being unstable or, in fact, over working to compensate. Lie on your right side with your knees bent on top of each other and your right arm under your head to support it. Keeping your feet together, open the clam shell by lifting your top knee up. You should make sure that your pelvis and core remain stable and then slowly close the clam shell. Repeat 15 times and switch sides.
Well there we go, some tips to hopefully avoid runner’s knee for yourself and get the absolute most out of your runs with minimal injury! Have a read of our article on 5 simple ways you can avoid ankle pain when running!