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Runner’s Knee…it is not for runners!

Then why do they call it runner’s knee? I have no idea! So, let’s talk about whyt it is NOT for runners. The old adage “Just because it’s on the internet does not make it true” is more pertinent today than ever before. Second to this, is the relentless search for questions on how to heal your ailments on Facebook. While we love our friends, family, and running communities the advice that is provided is just plain wrong and misleading. 

So why am I on this rant today? I am curious about search terms on the internet and  what type of information can be found. So, I pulled up the term “what is runner’s knee” on the infamous Google search engine. The most notorious doctor on line, WebMD, showed up number one on the search. So I clicked and here was the first line to the article: “First, it isn’t just for runners. Also, it isn’t really a specific injury.” Well, that does not help a runner out at all. That actually sounds like a non-run related injury. In my opinion, WebMD is describing pain that can develop at the front of the knee from performing repetitive movements. This can lead to what is known as chondromalacia patella (CMP). We see this type of injury develop from performing repeated squat, jump, and lunge type of activities. People who participate in basketball, volleyball, or other types of plyometric activities end up with this type of injury. I am NOT saying that runners are immune to this, but they do not tend to develop CMP.

If a runner, or someone who participates with endurance type of recreational actives, searched this term and accepted the treatment offered for “runner’s knee” they would end up sidelined for a season or longer.MIKE RUSSELL, PT, DPT, CSCS

The strategy is wrong and will not resolve a runner’s pain that is at the knee. The internet and social media are great and useful places to retrieve information but we need to be careful with what we are looking at.  While I am not trying to be overly critical of something online, I do feel that people who have a run related injury are susceptible to misinformation and bad treatment advice. Not only is the diagnosis incorrect, the treatment strategy is flawed: Rest, Ice, wrap, elevate, stretch, and use arch supports. Oh! And of course take medicine! That is our favorite!

Knee pain MOST runners complain of is pain at the outside part of the knee (lateral). The funny thing about this type of knee pain is… it is not a knee injury!  Runners have been repeatedly misdiagnosed as having CMP (the above described overuse injury) or have been told to stop (or rest) because running is ruining their knees. Raise your hand if this has been you or someone you know!!!

If you are a runner with knee pain and have not had some form of trauma (think of soccer or football) or fall on to your knee, your pain is MOST likely coming from your hip!

This gets us into Iliotibial band (ITB) problems. The problem is coming from the hip but the pain is manifesting at the lateral side of the knee. An iliotibial band injury is the MOST common lateral knee pain felt in the running population. 

Runners will complain of pain at the knee (almost as if a hot poker was being stabbed into the side of their knee) after a short while of running. The pain almost disappears as you cease running. There may be some residual ache but the stabbing pain subsides rather quick. Pain will also be felt while coming down steps or stairs.

For the purposes of this content, I want to make sure you are able to identify what is going on with your knee so that you can seek out the correct type of strategy that keeps you running.

First, identify where the pain is at your knee. Is it at the side of the knee? Does it seem to wrap around to the front under the knee cap? This is the area of the knee that usually hurts due to having some form of dysfunction at the hip. Second, think about your recent running mileage. Has it increased suddenly? Are you making the jump from half marathon to a full? This type of knee pain is a gradual build up until the load (compression) becomes too much for the tissue to handle. 

If you are suffering from pain at the side of your knee while you are running, please consider the following as a guide to determine what you need to get started with. There is no magical cure or stretch to get rid of this condition permanently. You MUST be diligent with your accessory training program and work on hip, core, and balance exercises.

Try the following to see if they provide some relief! As always, give me a call, text, or zoom!!

Mike Russell, PT, DPT, CSCS

Mike the PT

Side lying Hip Abduction
Clamshell Exercise
Prone Hip Extension

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