Knees are designed to support and help transport our body weight, but when we increase the load, we increase the risk of wearing them out. In fact, every extra pound above a healthy weight equals three additional pounds of pressure on knee joints when we walk, and an extra 10 pounds when we run.
Runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain) is a term used to refer to several factors that cause pain around the patella bone located at the front of the knee. This can include improper alignment of the kneecap (knock knees, for example), previous injury, flat feet or weak thigh muscles.
Patellofemoral pain is typically the result of overuse. Sometimes it is due to a degenerative condition caused by a softening and breaking down of the cartilage behind the kneecap over time’this is known as chondromalacia patella.
Who’s at risk?
Suggested risk factors include certain anatomical features such as less optimal hip and kneecap alignment angles, muscle imbalances around the hip and knee, overtraining and inadequate recovery, says Makowski.
Women can counter the natural imbalances that put abnormal stress on the knees by maintaining a healthy weight, stretching before and after exercise, using proper running form, and strengthening hip abductor and glute muscles, says Rick Kaselj, a practising kinesiologist in Surrey, B.C. (See suggested exercises here.)
Stop activity and follow RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation). After the pain and swelling have passed, reconditioning exercises (prescribed by a physiotherapist) can help you regain full motion, strength, endurance, speed, agility and coordination. Surgery may be required to remove damaged kneecap cartilage, or to realign the kneecap.
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