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How to Combat the Dreaded “Runner’s Knee”

One of the questions we get asked the most at Finish Line Physical Therapy is, “What is the most common injury you treat?” That one’s easy: Patellofemoral Syndrome, also known as Runner’s Knee.

With the New York City Marathon just 9 weeks away, many of our patients are really starting to increase both their running distance and frequency. As a result, the first place to experience that “wear and tear” is in the knee.

The most obvious clue that you might have runner’s knee is generalized pain around the kneecap that typically hurts the most with prolonged sitting, descending stairs, squatting, and any impact activities such as jumping or running.

Here’s what happens: the patella (or kneecap) begins to maltrack—or not glide smoothly—in the groove between the femur and tibia (the thigh and shin bones). The fun part of our job is figuring out what causes the patella to track improperly. This could be a variety of things, but the most common culprits are weak or inefficient glute muscles, tight hips, a pronated or supinated foot, or tight quads. Obviously, every person is different; only by evaluating the entire system can we figure out the source of the problem versus just treating the knee because that’s where you’re experiencing pain.

What can you do if you start to feel that generalized knee pain?

  • Foam roll! Everyone hates that dreadful roller at first, but I guarantee that once you get in the routine of using it, you will end up liking it. Focus on the quads (front and lateral) and the glutes (see videos below), rolling each muscle group for about 2-3 minutes. If you currently have pain, make sure to use the foam roller before and after runs. If you are rolling for maintenance or preventative reasons, using it after runs should be sufficient.
  • Strengthen your glute muscles. Think you need a gym to strength train? Think again! Some of the easiest and most effective strengthening exercises can be done without the use of weights or a gym membership: lunges, squats, step ups, sidesteps, and planks. Any strengthening program helps and does not need to be more than 2x/week or longer than 20-30 minutes. So no excuses; anything is better than nothing!
  • Schedule an appointment with your favorite PT at Finish Line! The most important thing to remember when it comes to these sorts of injuries is that the quicker you catch an injury, the easier it is to treat. If you start to feel some knee pain during or after your runs, dust off that roller and start putting it to good use! Then give us a call; we can help you (and your patella) get back on track.

Rolling Techniques for the Quads

Rolling Techniques for the Glutes

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