Are you aggravating your knee pain without realising it?


Are you aggravating your knee pain without realising it?

At Apex Clinic, we treat runners on a daily basis who share the common injury of ‘Runner’s Knee’. But what many are shocked to hear is that they are often aggravating their knee pain without even realising it, whilst they thought they were helping it. Here, we share a few simple ways to avoid worsening or prolonging your knee pain.

What is ‘Runner’s Knee’?

‘Runner’s knee’ or patellofemoral pain, is pain which is felt at the front of the knee, around the knee cap area usually affecting the front and front/inside area of the knee.  The pain is often a dull ache, usually accompanied by a crunching, grating sound or clicking coming from the front of the knee on bending and straightening the knee.  It’s extremely common in runners, accounting for roughly 20% of all running injuries.

The good news is that even if an x-ray shows wear and tear on the undersurface of the knee cap, or chondromalacia patella as it’s called, your pain can still be cleared in almost all cases allowing you to continue your running regime. Rebecca Nelson, Director of Physiotherapy at Apex Clinic, Belfast offers some essential tips to ensure that you aren’t actually worsening your knee pain, or even causing it without knowing.

Tips to avoid aggravating or causing runner’s knee

1) Wear loose clothing:

Whilst many of us love our leggings and tighter clothing for running, those with patellofemoral problems should NOT wear tight leggings or compressive clothes around the knee, because this causes compression of the under surface of the knee cap (patella) which will aggravate the pain of runner’s knee. Therefore, loose clothing or shorts are best. This should also be applied throughout your normal day, avoiding skinny jeans or tight jeggings which can compress the knee cap and cause pain.

2) Don’t reach for support bandages:

In times of knee pain, it can be very tempting to seek support from compressive bandages, such as tubigrip but these must be avoided at all costs. The same goes for knee braces.  Although it may feel like the bandage is offering support at the time, it will always make your knee pain worse, if not at the time, afterwards.

3) Avoid kneeling completely:

Kneeling causes severe compression of the knee cap and so will greatly aggravate your knee pain. If you have a manual job, such as a tiler, which requires kneeling for several hours each day, seek relief by using special knee pads, which take the pressure on areas around the kneecap instead of over it.  A squatting position, having your bottom to your heels is a much less provocative position than kneeling for runner’s knee, so use it where possible.

4) Don’t reach for anti-inflammatory rubs or cold rubs:

When pain strikes many folk with runner’s knee reach for anti-inflammatory rubs or cold rubs, in hope of a little relief.  Research suggests however that these rubs are completely ineffective at relieving this pain as they can’t be applied to the undersurface of the knee cap from where the pain is coming from!  Applying these rubs will do you no harm, but is usually pointless.

5) Watch how you sleep:

Sleeping on your tummy isn’t advised for anyone, because of the ill effects it has on your spine, but especially those with  Runner’s Knee. This position puts excess weight on your knee cap area, compressing it and therefore causing pain in the process. Sleeping on either side is the best position to adopt in bed.

6) Avoid the knee clicking where possible:

Many people with Runner’s knee feel a clicking or crunching when they bend and straighten their knee.  Some people think that if they keep doing the action which causes the clicking, that it will somehow improve it, and make it click less.  This is in fact not true, because the more that the person moves the knee to make it click or crunch, the more this aggravates the pain coming from underneath the knee cap.  Repeated clicking of the knee can flare up the knee pain dramatically, and should be avoided where possible.

Treat it and beat it…

Whilst the advice above is very likely to improve the pain of Runner’s knee, it’s likely however that you’ll still need proper physiotherapy treatment from an experienced physio to clear it completely, and allow you to run painfree again.  The clicking or crunching is also likely to clear with physiotherapy treatment making you feel youthful again!