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Playing through Runner's Knee pain

Runner's knee, also called patellofemoral pain, is a condition characterised by dull, aching pain under or around the kneecap (patella) where it connects with the thighbone (femur). It has been dubbed Runner's Knee because it is most felt in runners, however jumpers footballers, soccer players and other high-impact sports athletes may also suffer from this condition.

Runner's knee may result from excessive training or overuse, irritation of the soft tissues around the kneecap, misalignment of the knee, strained tendons or over-pronation of the feet. Female athletes who have wide hips are also prone to this condition. Other factors are weak quadriceps muscles and tight hamstring or calf muscles.

The best way to treat this condition is with rest. A football player may not like to hear this, but it is better to rest the knee until all pain is gone rather than trying to finish the season by using ice or pain medications. To continue running will lead to a breakdown of the cartilage of the knee, cause pain in the underlying bone and irritate the joint lining. Treatment is usually non-surgical and will depend on what caused the condition. While you are sitting it out, here are some things you can do:

Use the RICE formula.

  • Rest. Take some time off from running. You may swim meanwhile to maintain fitness, but running would only exacerbate the injury.
  • Ice. Apply ice packs wrapped in a towel during the day, 15-20 minutes at a time.
  • Compression. Wrap a knee band with the kneecap cut out around the knee. It should be snug but not tight enough to cause pain.
  • Elevation. Keep the knee raised when sitting or lying.

You may use anti-inflammatory pain medications if you need more pain relief. After the pain and swelling have subsided, you may need physiotherapy in order to regain strength and flexibility of the knee. Therapy will focus on exercises to restore range-of-motion, strength, strength, endurance and coordination. Stretching exercises to loosen tight muscles will also be emphasised. If you over-pronate, your doctor may prescribe orthotics or recommend braces to be used during running.

Before deciding to continue with your sport, please seek professional advice.


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