Sometime last year, I decided to take up running again after a couple of years off and get fit, so I started the NHS running program ‘couch to 5k’. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a running program created by the NHS (in the form of a free podcast) that helps you increase your running time and distance until – you’ve guessed it – you’re running 5k. I completed it in 2013, so decided to give it another go thinking ‘how hard can this be second time round?’.

Why do my knees hurt when I run? 

Well, it turns out, harder than I thought! When I wasn’t dealing with shin splits (see Danielle’s post on shin splints for more info on this), I was being stopped by a stabbing pain in my kneecap. When I first experienced this on the treadmill, it came in one knee first, and then a few minutes later, the other one, and I was forced to stop.

Runner’s knee

There can be many causes of knee pain, and it’s always best to seek medical advice if you’re worried. However, a term used to describe pain in front of the knee (rather than the side of your knee) is called patellofemoral pain syndrome, or Runner’s Knee – the condition is called this because it is a typical runner’s injury, but cyclists, walkers and other sports people can suffer from it as well, and even office workers or people sitting for long periods of time! The pain tends to occur when the knee is being bent.

Why do my knees hurt when I run? 

Although the exact causes of runner’s knee are unknown, one possible explanation is that tightness or weakness in the muscles that are attached to the knee (the quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles) causes the patella (kneecap) to be pulled slightly out of alignment, thus creating pain.

How to reduce and prevent runner’s knee

  1. Tight hamstrings and quadriceps can sometimes be behind knee pain, so much sure you stretch these muscles really thoroughly after exercising – don’t skip this step!
  2. Work on strengthening these muscles as well
  3. Try cross-training – if you’re doing a lot of running, mix it up with some swimming, which is much easier on your joints
  4. Exercises such as running are weight-bearing and place a lot of stress on joints such as knees, so make sure you have properly fitted footwear that supports your feet and replace trainers regularly
  5. Runner’s knee tends to be an overuse condition, i.e. it often occurs when you increase your training rapidly and work the muscles much harder than they are used to. Try decreasing the amount of training you are doing and build up more gradually
  6. Sports massage can help reduce tightness in the muscles around the knee and keep the joint in good condition

 

Dixit, S., Difiori, J., Burton, M., Mines, B., (2007), Management of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, accessed 10 January 2017.