When you hear of a disease named after a certain sporting activity – tennis elbow or runner’s knee for instance – you naturally tend to think that people who do those sports like crazy are the only ones who are affected. Of course, the truth of the matter is, these conditions are named this way for no particular reason. While runners knee is something that runners are often afflicted with, any kind of athlete who uses their legs – i.e. a cyclist, pole vaulter, boxer or even a weight lifter can be struck down by the ailment just as easily. In fact, runners knee isn’t actually one specific condition , it’s a term that doctors use loosely to describe any of a set of problems that occur in the kneecaps.
For instance, any kind of athletic activity that requires you to bend your knee and straighten it repeatedly can bring the condition on. Doing that can rub the nerves the wrong way. Sometimes, the tendons that connect your muscles to the bones around the knees can get injured with repeated bending. And about half the time, overworked and inflamed tendons act up in such a way that you experience quite a bit of pain. In some people, simply to fall hard on their knees can cause the kind of nerve or tendon injury that overuse can cause. Not good!
Runner’s knee can feel really painful. You experience a serious pain around the kneecap – most pointedly where the thigh bone meets the kneecap. You can also feel a grinding and popping sensation in the knee and there is usually a good bit of pain when you climb stairs or when you try to walk or sit. Your doctor can give you an MRI or an x-ray or CT scan to diagnose you. While all of this does sound kind of scary, the good news is that it can be relatively straightforward to treat runner’s knee. Most minor cases go away with a bit of the rest and icing your knee for a half hour every day for a week or using a tight knee support. If it hurts when you sit down, you could try elevating your knee on a pillow. Athletes often take NSAIDs – painkillers like Advil – to settle the swelling and pain.
Athletes often have aching joints and muscles and often pop acetaminophen in place of Advil to try to prevent the stomach problems that can be associated with some painkillers. If you have runners knee and you need to take a painkiller, doctors are usually of the opinion that Tylenol is the safest bet – providing you take no more than six tablets a day.
The military also has a huge problem with runner’s knee, especially in boot camp. Recruits who show up and go through the military’s grueling series of exercises often complain of this affliction and, in fact, runners knee happens to be one of the major reasons why military recruits drop out.
Researchers have found now that simple well thought-out stretching exercises can help a great deal with keeping running knee away. Exercises especially that strengthen thigh muscles and leg muscles making them stronger and more flexible make the occurrence of runner’s knee a lot less frequent.