Dr. Alicia Gustafson is a Family Medicine physician who is fellowship-trained in Primary Care Sports Medicine. She is able to treat most orthopedic injuries with non-surgical interventions, including injections and musculoskeletal manipulations, as well as concussion management. She practices at Northwest Allied Physicians. For more information, click here.
A common ailment that affects runners is anterior knee pain. The most likely cause of the pain is patellofemoral pain syndrome, also known as “runner’s knee.” This is a condition that is the result of overuse of the knee joint or misalignment of the patella (kneecap) on the femur. One possible cause of the malalignment can result from the soft tissue that runs down the thigh and connects to the knee joint being overly tight, thus creating friction and irritation. This, along with overuse, causes swelling of the surrounding tissues and bone which leads to pain. It can present with varying age groups and usually is a slow progression. Pain will often be present when climbing stairs, with prolonged sitting and kneeling. People may experience popping and cracking in one or both of the knees.
Treatment of patellofemoral pain syndrome consists of changing or modifying activities that elicit the pain. Runners may need to decrease the frequency/duration or speed of running and incorporate more low-impact cross training such as elliptical or water aerobics. Rest, ice, compression and elevation can help relieve the discomfort and reduce swelling following activity. Exercises that strengthen the muscles that stabilize the knee, such as the quadriceps and hamstrings are also key to treatment. Some examples are straight leg raises, hamstring curl, knee extension, partial squat and lunge. Make sure to stretch regularly; particularly the quadriceps, hamstrings, iliotibial band and hip flexors. If pain persists or worsens, you should be evaluated by your doctor.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome can be prevented by exercising and training properly. Avoid doing too much too soon. A gradual increase of 10% per week in terms of duration and intensity is ideal. Progression in training will depend on your baseline fitness level. Someone who has not done any regular exercise should go much slower than someone who is more physically fit, and should allow for 6 weeks of consistent training prior to ramping up the intensity of training. Listen to your body both during and after activity, as often times pain does not present itself until days later. If you are developing pain with activity, scale back what you’re doing and modify. This will help long-term, and allow for consistency of training. Strength training at least 2-3 days a week, making sure to incorporate the exercises mentioned above, will help to maintain proper tracking of the kneecap.
Running is a great form of exercise with numerous health benefits, but can be taxing on the body. Be cautious and consistent when initiating a running routine. Following the above recommendations and guidelines will help you stay on the road and in the fast lane. Happy running!!
Alicia Gustafson D.O.
Northwest Allied Physicians, Sports Medicine
6060 N. Fountain Plaza Drive, Ste 270