Runners Knee – What Is It and What Do You Do About It?

Knee pain with running is one of the most common injuries affecting the running community. If you’re reading this blog you’ve probably experienced it, are experiencing it, or are wanting to avoid it…

To help with knee pain and running, we need to understand what can cause it;

  • Too much, too soon
    Our bodies are amazingly resilient, but only if we give it time to adapt to the load we place on it. If we build up our running distance too quickly, or suddenly add hill-running to our program, our risk of injury increases.
  • Not recovering well enough
    Our bodies can only get stronger when we give it a chance to recover. We need 24-48 hours (on average) to recover between bouts of similar exercise; less than this can also increase our chance of injury.
  • Strength of our muscles
    Running places a lot of forces through our bodies. Our muscles are well equipped to absorb that load – but only if they are strong enough to cope.
  • Endurance of our muscles
    Endurance refers to the ability of our muscles to perform over extended periods of time. This is really more important in a long distance runner!
  • The ability of our tendons to act like a spring
    Our tendon needs to be able to quickly absorb force and act like a spring to propel us forward. If we don’t have this ability, we tend to absorb more load in our joints than if we had a ‘springier’ tendon.
  • Motor control and balance
    The ability to control our body, especially on one leg, can impact the loading of the knee joint.
  • Flexibility
    Flexibility of our hip and ankle can impact our running technique, which can place load in unwanted areas.
  • Running technique
    The way we run determines what part of the body the load of running goes through. For example, if our foot strike is far out in front vs close to the body, that places more load on our knee joint.

Do I need to stop running for my knee pain to get better?

Most likely, you don’t need to stop running for knee pain (unless we suspect something that could worsen with more running, like a stress fracture).

I’ve been told that I need orthotics for my knee pain. Is this true?

Orthotics can be placed in your shoes to help with your symptoms, but this should be treated as a short-term solution only, with the goal to eventually wean out of them while you complete your rehabilitation.

What can I do about my pain?

Rather than complete rest, it is best to modify your running so that you do not decondition too much.

Ways to modify running load

Modify your running load by;

  • Changing your weekly structure and ensuring appropriate rest between sessions – is there at least 24 hours between running bouts?
  • Reducing overall distance – try reducing the distance by ~20-30%
  • Reducing hills – running downhill places more stress on the knee cap. Aim to reduce the number of times you are running down hill
  • Reducing the intensity of each run – 80% of your runs should be at a very low intensity, with only a small amount of your runs being at a higher intensity

Get stronger!

In core, hip, thigh and calf muscles. See examples below for some quadricep strengthening. Head over to our YouTube page to see some more examples of these exercises!

Exercises include:

  • Wall sits for knee pain
  • Get more springy. Sometimes our muscles and tendons become less springy as we age, meaning that our joints move through a higher range of motion than normal. To improve this, you can use exercises like box jumps or hurdle jumps
  • Modify running technique to offload the knee joint, by changing the technique of running, we can move the forces to other parts of our body while the knee pain settles. This might involve being taller in your posture, or taking quicker shorter steps.

If you are having trouble with your running, or knee pain, we offer full running assessments (which you can read more about here), please do not hesitate to get in touch!

Experience the Momentum difference today!

We believe that modern physio should offer you care across the entire treatment journey to achieve your goals, from pain relief, to strengthening and reducing injury risk. This is why we created our purpose-built facility with access to state of the art technology and equipment.