How to Prevent Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee is a general name for what health professionals call ‘anterior knee pain’. It has also had different names in the past such as patella-femoral pain syndrome (PFPS) or patella mal-tracking.

This particular type of knee pain can occur in any level of athlete and I often see this in people preparing for an event or race. In the confusion about what is Runner’s knee it is very easy to get lost in the terminology and forget about the bigger picture. That is; what is causing your knee pain and what can we do to prevent it or treat it.

Generally, Runner’s knee can be caused by several factors.

  • A significant increase in load (running, walking, hiking, sports, etc).
  • Lower limb alignment and muscle control.
  • Changes in footwear (different shoes, footy boots).
  • Running surface change (grass, footpath, trails, footy field).
  • Injuries and return to activity after a rest period (increased load).

As we can see above, there are a variety of reasons why a person may get runner’s knee. If you are experiencing Runner’s knee, then it is best to consult a physio so that they can assess your specific causes and treat you accordingly.

Today, however, I am going to take you through 2 ways to prevent Runner’s knee.

Load management

  • The best way to prevent Runner’s knee is through load management. One of the most common causes is an increase in the amount of exercise, or a change in the type of exercise a person is doing.
  • If you are a beginner and new to running, or if you want to increase your running distance, the best way to prevent injury is by increasing your running levels very gradually. Now this sounds simple but is actually very hard to put into practice. I have been guilty of increasing my distance too quickly when I begin training for an event.
  • An example of a very simple program might be:
    • Run/walk for 10-20mins 2 days per week with a longer 30min run/walk on the weekend. Do this for 3 weeks and progress.
    • Run/walk for 20-30mins, 2 days per week with a longer 40min run/walk on the weekend. Do this for 3 weeks and progress… and so on.

Strengthening

  • Strengthening is a very good way to reduce your chance of injury because it can help mitigate a variety of aggravating factors. Overall, strengthening your body is about building its resilience to handle stress and its ability to move efficiently. So, here are some simple strength exercises I would recommend.
  • Glute bridge (this is a great warm up exercise pre-run):
    • Laying on your back with your knees bent and your feet planted.
    • Clench your glutes and lift your hips straight up, then lower them down.
    • Repeat for 15reps and do 3 sets.
  • Squat:
    • Set feet approximately shoulder width apart with toes facing in a comfortable direction.
    • As you squat, push your knees out so they stay aligned with your toes, do not let them cave inwards.
    • Generally, look to do 3 sets of 8-15
  • Reverse Lunge
    • From a standing start hold body weight on one leg.
    • Lunge back with the other leg as if you were ‘taking a knee’.
    • Bend your back knee while maintaining body weight through your front leg through full range of movement.
    • Keep front knee aligned over toes, do not let it cave in.
    • Stand back up and repeat
    • Generally, you can do 3 sets of 8 both sides.
  • Skipping
    • Get yourself a skipping rope and skip away.
    • Begin skipping for short periods (30sec) and increase your time skipping.
    • Progress from double leg to single leg skipping.
    • This imitates the running motion very well.
    • Aim for 6 sets of 30sec skipping to start.

These 2 main strategies will give you a very good chance of beginning your running life or increasing your amount of running without experiencing Runner’s knee. If you do begin to get knee pain, I would strongly recommend you see your local Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist for a more specific approach.

 

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