Runner's Knee Rehabilitation

Runners knee rehabilitation: probably the most common pain for a runner is a pain in the knee. While sometimes the pain is serious, other times home remedies will work.

It is sometimes said that even horses know not to run on pavement. Well, horses may know that, but us humans don't. In cities throughout the world, runners take to the streets, pounding the pavement. And all the while, the knees are taking quite a pounding themselves.

While serious injuries, fractures, major tears of cartilage and ligaments, need quick medical care, sometimes knee pain can be relieved, or lessened, with good home treatments.

When do knee injuries occur?

In many cases, the injuries occur over time, by the constant pounding on the hard pavement. The repetitive movement creates stress on the knee joint, and eventually the pain develops. Note that serious injuries usually happen suddenly. When a football player cringes in pain on the field, he has done something like snapped a ligament so the immediate pain is excruciating. This is different than the gradual, dull ache that can develop on the knees of a runner.

Do certain surfaces cause pain in the knee?

Think soft, soft and soft. No, not sand, but cushioned tracks are superior to the hard pavement of streets and sidewalks.

Also, if you live in a hilly area you may notice that going downhill is more painful than going uphill. The knee is more stressed on the downhill course. One solution is to switch to a more flat, even route rather than a hilly one.

What should I do if I notice a pain?

Obviously, if it is a sudden sharp, excruciating pain, see your doctor or go to the emergency room.

On the other hand, if the pain is a dull ache and your knee is not locking in position, stop running for a few weeks to see if it helps. Telling a runner to stop running is like telling a dog to stop barking. However, experienced runners will listen to their bodies, and will realize that sometimes just a bit of rest is all that is needed.

Is there anything else I can do in addition to rest?

Doctors use the RICE formula, which consists of Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Rest the knee by not running. Put ice on the area that hurts. Be sure and massage the area as the ice is applied so that the ice does not hurt the skin (you don't want to add frostbite to the problem). Wrap the knee (compression) with a brace or bandage to provide compression. Remember when wrapping -- Don't Wrap Too Tight!!! You should be able to EASILY insert two fingers under the wrap. It is important, actually essential, that you maintain circulation in the area.

Elevation means raising your knee up. Put it onto a nearby chair when you sit.

What if these treatments do not work?

If these treatments do not work, and the pain is continuing, go to your doctor. There are many specialized tests and procedures that can be done, and many physicians specialize in sports medicine. These doctors (usually orthopedic surgeons) understand that your goal is to get back on track (literally) as quickly as possible. They may prescribe medications, physical therapy, or simply inserts for your shoes.

How do inserts (orthotics) work?

Orthotics are custom designed to make the angle of "landing" a more healthy one for you. For example, if your feet turn in when they hit the ground (pronate) the orthotics may be designed to prevent that.

How can physical therapy help?

Most likely, the physical therapist will ask you to run on a treadmill to demonstrate how you run. He or she will study your form. You may notice that you come down with pounding resonance on the treadmill, so the therapist will tell you how to add more "springiness" to your gait. He or she will also provide exercises and stretches that you can do before and after you run.

Maybe the saying that "horses know not to run on pavement" does hold some truth, and maybe if we stuck to more forgiving surfaces, our knees would thank us. The problem is that the joy of running down a road or through a park is so tremendous, a little pain may be a cheap price to pay.

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