Knee pain that starts during or after running is a very common problem for many of our patients. It’s also a problem that – if not treated effectively and merely shrugged away – is one that can keep returning and giving you problems for years. Today we’re talking about three common causes of knee pain that we see in runners – two in adults and one specific to kids.
Remember, there are a variety of other causes of knee pain – these are just the ones that present more often to our clinic. The key to any successful treatment is the right diagnosis so don’t guess – make sure you get the right diagnosis, especially if it’s not one of the causes we’re talking about today.
1. Runner’s Knee
While Runner’s Knee gets this name from its higher prevalence in runners, it is medically called Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS). PFPS has been reported to affect up to 23% of adults annually and almost twice as many women as men.
In PFPS, pain is experienced where the patella (kneecap) meets the femur (thigh bone). The result is pain behind and around the kneecap with potential swelling too, and the level of pain gets higher as the damage increases over time. You may notice these symptoms start during activities that repetitively bend and straighten the knee or put significant force through the knee. Aside from running, this may be from skiing, basketball, netball, squatting and the like.
Identified causes of PFPS include an abnormal pull on the kneecap from muscle imbalances, problems with knee/leg alignment, posture and biomechanics, training problems like increasing the intensity or duration of your workout before you’re ready, and exercising in unsupportive footwear.
2. Jumper’s Knee
Medically called Patellar Tendinopathy, jumpers knee describes pain and inflammation at the patellar tendon at the front of the knee. The patellar tendon runs across your knee and holds your kneecap in place, working to help straighten the knee from a bent position and protect the knee joint by keeping the kneecap in the right place. It plays an essential role in our ability to run, kick, jump, and generally move our legs.
The patellar tendon becomes damaged when it’s placed under high forces and overloaded. This may be a result of long or hard training sessions, poor training techniques, training on hard surfaces, problems with foot or leg biomechanics, muscle imbalances (e.g. tight hamstrings or weak quads) and more.
3. Osgood Schlatter’s
Osgood Schlatter’s is a type of growing pain in kids that affects the knees. As it only occurs in periods of growth, particularly between the ages of 8-16, it cannot be experienced by adults. The painful symptoms present just below and around the knee and usually come on during or after physical activity – particularly running.
The cause of this knee pain is due to damage to the growth plate located right below the knee. Growth plates are delicate areas of cartilage within our bones through which our bones grow bigger. As both the bones and muscles grow simultaneously, sometimes the tight pull from the muscles that attach near the growth plate (especially the quads) creates tension on this area and hence produces pain. The pull can be exacerbated by lower limb alignment and biomechanics, footwear, other muscle tightness or weakness, and other factors.
Knee Pain Treatment For Runners
The first place to start in the effective treatment of knee pain is the right diagnosis. This is what our podiatrists do here at Cartwright Podiatry, following a comprehensive assessment of your foot biomechanics, your gait, footwear, the symptoms you’re experiencing, your foot posture and more.
Next, we’ll prescribe a treatment plan that is specifically designed to meet your needs and help you achieve your goals. Your goals may be different if you’re new to running compared to if you’re a few months out from your next Iron Man comp. We’ll create a custom treatment plan for you, which will be adjusted as we start to see results. We may use:
- Knee strapping
- 3D-scanned custom foot orthotics
- Footwear adjustment to more stabilising and supportive shoes
- A stretching and strengthening programme
- Gait retraining following a running assessment
- Dry needling to help the muscles involved
Through your treatment, we’ll also be putting the right measures in place to reduce the likelihood of this problem happening again. Our goal is not just to help you right now, but keeping you running safely for years to come!
Book your appointment with us by calling (02) 8405 6850 or book online here.