Running pain

Knee pain while running: How to treat it?

If your knee hurts as soon as you take your first steps in the morning, going down the stairs or running, this article is made for you.

The knee is a joint, which means that no matter what we do, it is always in motion. At each step, at each stride, the knee is put under tension. Therefore, if pain occurs during physical activity, it becomes difficult to treat it properly because the muscles, tendons and ligaments that surround the kneecap are never at rest. Unless, of course, you take things "drastically" like going to see a PT to reduce pain , rest and/or use a splint or knee brace for total immobilization at the first signs of injury.

You're in pain but don't really know what it could be? Let's look at it together:

Different types of pain:

Patellar tendonitis:

Also known as the "jumper's knee", the patellar tendon is located just below the patella. It connects the patella to the tibia. It is so named because it is most often found in jumping sports such as basketball, volleyball, handball, long distance running (trails, road) or cycling. It is an inflammation due to overuse of the joint or friction of the patella on the tendon caused by incorrect alignment. If it is not treated properly, the inflammation can obviously worsen and thus weaken the tendon to the point of tearing it. Often the pain appears progressively and becomes difficult to tolerate.

What are the first signs of patellar tendinitis?
  • First steps in the morning are difficult.
  • Difficulty bending the knee and/or walking normally.
  • Pain and tenderness around the patellar tendon
  • Inflamation
How do you treat patellar tendinitis?

One of the most common methods of reducing pain and swelling around the injured area is the R.I.C.E method. This acronym stands for Rest,Ice, Compression, and Elevation, and when you are not at rest, it is best to wear a knee brace to limit movement or a strap (under the kneecap) to avoid friction. Obviously, all physical activity should be stopped for about 15 days. Since patellar tendinitis can be caused by friction between the patella and the tendon, it is also advisable to make an appointment with an osteopath. If necessary, the health professional will be able to manipulate the joint and bring it back into proper alignment. Once the pain is completely gone, you can gently resume some physical activity; and swimming is a good way to "get your body moving again" without putting any weight on the joints. There are specially designed belts for running in the water. In addition to working on your stride, you'll have the opportunity to really work on your cardio.

IT Band syndrome:

The iliotibial band runs along the lateral or outer side of the thigh from the hip and knee. The iliotibial band is an important stabilizing structure of the lateral (or external) part of the knee during flexion/extension. When the knee is flexed, the iliotibial band is located behind the femoral epicondyle (such as a small bony spike) at the knee joint. Inflammation and irritation of the iliotibial band may occur when the band rubs against the femoral epicondyle. This often occurs if harmful knee rotation is present. This often occurs if there is a harmful rotation of the knee, so pain is especially present during activities such as running with each stride when the front leg hits the ground. It is strongly advised in this case to make an appointment with an osteopath to manipulate the joint and bring it back into proper alignment.

What are the first signs of the IT Band syndrome?
  • Difficulty bending the knee
  • Pain on the lateral side of the knee
  • Burning sensation
  • Sensitive to touch
How do you treat IT Band syndrome?

The R.I.C.E method in English. This acronym stands for "Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation" and must be applied at the first signs of pain. Any physical activity should be put aside to allow the knee joint to drastically reduce the inflammation and the use of a splint would be ideal. Specific stretching should be done daily and physiotherapy sessions (shock waves, hooking and massage).

Patellar syndrome:  

Also known as "Runner's knee", patellar syndrome is a pain that is present deep below the patella. Although the term "runner" is used, any activity that repeatedly stresses the knee joint can cause this patellar syndrome. (Squats, prolonged sitting, climbing and descending stairs). This pain can be caused by soft tissue irritation, a problem with the cartilage, or by excessive tension in the tendons.

What are the first signs of patellar syndrome?
  • Pain in the patella
  • Discomfort when sitting for long periods of time.
  • Burning sensation
  • Inflamation
  • Snapping and grinding
How do you treat patellar syndrome?

As previously explained, the R.I.C.E. method will have to be put in place to allow for the reduction of pain. An appointment with the osteopath should not be neglected in order to verify the proper alignment of the patella with the surrounding tendons.  

Conclusion

From the onset of knee pain, it is recommended that you take a rest so as not to aggravate the inflammation. Complications may lead to a tear and a surgical operation will then have to be considered.  Even if rest due to injury is never easy to accept as an athlete, it is sometimes mandatory. It is therefore necessary to take a step back and take the time to heal oneself in order to come back even stronger to achieve one's goals.

Perrine Evans

A former athlete and graduate in Sports Kinesiology from the University of Central Missouri (USA), I am passionate about biomechanical analysis of running and postural analysis.