What is it and how is it caused?
Runner’s knee is a generic term for pain at the front of the knee relating to the patella (knee cap). “The most common cause is overtraining, followed by poor lower limb biomechanics,” says Tim Allardyce from Surrey Physio (surreyphysio.co.uk). It can also be caused by muscle weaknesses or a tight ITB (iliotibial band).
When we bend and straighten our knee, the patella moves in a groove called the trochlea, which is known as ‘patella tracking’. If our front thigh muscles are too weak or the ITB is too tight, this can disrupt the tracking of the patella, causing pain. “Patella maltracking is a biomechanical problem with the knee in which the kneecap tracks outwards when the leg is straightened,” explains Tim. “The kneecap should move in a straight line.”
What’s the best treatment?
- Strengthen the muscles around the knee
Working on the strength of muscles around the kneecap can help keep it in place. “Concentrate on strengthening the muscles on the inside of the knee,” says Tim. “A good exercise is to lie flat on your back, turn your foot outwards, and lift the leg in the air and back down. Repeat 15 times.”
- Stretch your glutes
Although the pain manifests in the knee, stretching the muscles in your backside can help alleviate and prevent the issue. “The best stretch is the gluteal stretch,” says Tim. “Lie flat on your back and bring your knee towards your opposite shoulder. Also use a foam roller on the ITB.”
Why stretch the glutes? There is an attachment from the gluteal muscle to the ITB. “The ITB is very hard to stretch,” says Tim. “The next best thing is the glutes. Also the glutes can become over-dominant which turns the leg outwards and can put torsion through the knee joint.