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No Excuses: Runner’s Knee Doesn’t Have to Stop a Good Workout

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Runner’s Knee Doesn’t Have to Stop a Good Workout

No Excuses: Runner’s Knee Doesn’t Have to Stop a Good Workout

May 19, 2006
By: Jennifer Jope for Knee1 You’ve been diligent about getting on the treadmill regularly or running along your favorite path each morning. Your health is improving, you’ve slimmed down and even controlled some of the stress in your life through jogging – but like any athletic activity, aches and pains may show up. If they do, don’t let the idea of “runner’s knee” stop you from enjoying an effective form of exercise.
Take Action
Most knee pain responds well to self-care. Below are some tips to try and ease the pain:

  • Rest and avoid activities that aggravate the pain, especially weight-bearing activities.

  • Apply ice. At first, apply it every hour for up to 15 minutes. After the first day, apply it at least four times per day.

  • Keep your knee elevated as much as possible to bring any swelling down.

  • Gently compress the knee by wearing an ace bandage or elastic sleeve. This may reduce swelling and provide support.

  • Take acetaminophen for pain or ibuprofen for pain and swelling.

  • Sleep with a pillow underneath or between your knees.

  • According to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, runner’s knee has become the “catch-all” term for jogging-related knee pain. John Schrader, a licensed athletic trainer and clinical professor in Indiana University’s Bloomington's Department of Kinesiology, agrees calling runner’s knee a “generic classification” for different knee ailments. Runner’s knee, he said, can be a variety of conditions including worn cartilage, inflamed tendons in the kneecap region or problems related to the mechanics of the kneecap. “Making that distinction is the biggest challenge,” Schrader said. Typically, pain associated with the muscle and soft tissue around the knee is simply exercise soreness. However more serious problems, which can be deep bone pain or swelling that doesn’t resolve itself in 48 to 72 hours, should be examined by a doctor. The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine notes that even with the right shoe, stretching and all the proper preparation, pain can be an “inevitable” result for a new jogger. In fact, stretching alone may not be enough to prepare for a run. “There is some controversy related to the effectiveness of stretching,” said Schrader. Many people stretch their muscles before running, but Schrader notes that walking may be more beneficial. During a walk, the same muscles and tendons are being used in the same motion as running. This raises the core body tissue temperature making those structures more flexible and more pliable, Schrader said. Ideally, a runner should walk for a period of time to raise their body temperature until they begin to perceive perspiration (usually four to five minutes). Then stretch. For many people, the aches and pains of running might discourage them. “The biggest thing is people do too much, too soon,” Schrader said. For someone interested in recreational jogging, Schrader stresses that they invest their time in walking. He compares the situation to infants who crawl before they can walk and walk before they can run. “It allows the body systems to adapt,” he said, adding that the bones need to remodel themselves for the exercise. Another way to keep moving is cross-training. Other activities, like swimming and using elliptical machines, still allow for exercise, but lessen the strain on the same parts of the knee as running. New runners should also consider their muscle strength. Good muscle tone helps keeps joints in line. Runners should also note their weight. Excessive weight can put stress on the bones and joints creating pain. While it would seem obvious that knee pain would occur in new runners, even veteran runners sometimes feel a twinge of pain from time to time. For veteran runners, a change in course may ease the pain. Schrader said varying the running surfaces and directions on circular routes can help so that wear and tear and stress is more evenly distributed throughout the joints surfaces and bones. Schrader notes that experienced runners are more prone to overuse. A common reason for knee pain is excessive pronation, or the rolling in and down of the foot. Before someone takes on running, Schrader offers this advice: Stand in front of a full-length mirror. Draw a line from the hips down through the knee caps to the second toe. If this is not possible, Schrader said this may be a body mechanics problem, which could place added stress on bones and joints, creating inflammation. But all is not lost; a podiatrist may be able to prescribe shoe inserts to better align the body. While people should not run on bone pain, getting through the initial aches and pains may be worth it, as running is proven to provide an emotional boost, weight control, benefits to the cardiovascular system and strengthening of bones.

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