Runner’s knee refers to any of several conditions and injuries causing pain around the patella, or kneecap, and can be extremely painful. As the name suggests, this is an injury commonly experienced by runners, although anyone who takes part in activities where the knee joint is consistently put under stress runs the risk of suffering from runner’s knee.
Runner’s knee, in its various forms, is often characterized by the onset of dull pain where the knee connects to the lower end of the thigh bone. In most cases, the knee area will be tender to the touch, while you may have difficulty bending the affected knee or supporting your whole body weight when standing for a long time.
Compression tape is one of the most common tools used by therapists and medical professionals to relieve the pain caused by runner’s knee. Here are a few things you need to know about this condition and how using compression tape may help to speed up your recovery:
What is Runner’s Knee?
Some of the injuries and conditions that cause pain around the knee area and fall under the umbrella term “runner’s knee” are:
Most people first become aware that they have a problem when they start to experience pain in one or both of their knees. This pain may develop after a long run or other strenuous activities involving a lot of leg movement. You may also feel pain in your knee when standing up suddenly after being seated for a long time, when getting out of your car, or when changing your body position in other similar ways.
As well as being very painful, runner’s knee may also lead to long-term alignment problems, depending on the specific root cause behind the injury, or cause the kneecap to slip out of the trochlea (the natural groove providing the joint with stability and allowing it to shift up and down without sliding sideways), requiring proper medical care and attention.
According to the Harvard Medical School’s Health Blog, runner’s knee seems to occur more frequently in women than men, while it starts to become even more common among mature female runners. Researchers at the University of Exeter, in the United Kingdom, meanwhile, found that older women affected by runner’s knee may start to suffer from gradual misalignments of the kneecap, causing their kneecaps to sag inwards, bow outwards, or even undergo significant rotation.
What are the Most Common Causes of Knee Injury?
The most common cause of runner’s knee is overuse. While this is typically experienced by runners, it may also affect those who frequently take part in sports or other strenuous activities, including:
■ American football
■Wall or rock climbing
Almost any activity that places persistent pressure on your knee joints has the potential to cause runner’s knee. This is because constant leg movement can lead to more wear and tear on the soft tissues lining the knee, as well as increasing the risk of straining a tendon or tearing the cartilage around the knee.
Previous injuries are another common cause of runner’s knee: if you experience trauma to your kneecap – or it has been dislocated or fractured in the past – you will have a higher chance of suffering from runner’s knee later in life. The lack of a proper warm-up or stretching routine prior to a sports game or other exercise is another potential contributing factor, because without proper conditioning, your joints, cartilage, and tendons will be more prone to injury.
Individuals who have flat feet, misaligned knees, or weak thigh muscles have a higher chance of developing this condition, while arthritis can also play a part in its onset, as can old age. In short, whenever the lining of the knee joints becomes inflamed or thickens for any reason, pain will be more likely to develop in the kneecap and surrounding muscles and tissues.
How is Runner’s Knee Treated?
As with any sudden onset of pain and/or inflammation, the primary first aid response to runner’s knee is R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). As soon as pain sets in, it is very important that you try as much as possible to avoid putting further strain on your knees. This will help to prevent further damage and may lead to a faster recovery.
To minimize inflammation and swelling, it is often best to apply ice to the knee. This will help to reduce the buildup of heat around your joints and may also lessen the leaking of fluids into the surrounding tissues by constricting your veins. After putting a cold compress on the affected area for 30 minutes, you can use a compression wrap to stimulate blood flow, relieve pain, and provide support. Using compression tape may also push excess fluids away from the injury, potentially helping to speed up recovery and prevent further swelling.
To elevate the injury, place a pillow under the affected knee, making sure that your leg remains straight to avoid experiencing more pain. You may also need to lie down – or at least lean back – in order to achieve effective elevation: your foot should be raised higher than the knee, while the injured area must be above the level of your heart. This will slow the flow of blood towards the affected area and reduce bruising and swelling. If possible, keep your injured knee elevated for two to three hours per day to promote healing and recovery.
While R.I.C.E. can go a long way towards relieving the symptoms of runner’s knee, it will not necessarily be adequate to deal with severe injuries or pain in the knee area. In this case, you may have to go to the emergency room or consult a physician as soon as possible, where you may be advised to undergo X-rays and CT scans, as well as being prescribed pain relievers or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Preventing Knee Injuries
Most physiotherapists agree that stretching your knees and surrounding muscles can increase flexibility and reduce the chances of injury. One of the easiest ways to prevent runner’s knee is to make sure that you follow a thorough stretching routine before and after engaging in sporting activities or other forms of exercise. A simple 10-minute warm-up can significantly improve your chances of avoiding not only runner’s knee, but also a host of other injuries.
Maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) may also help to prevent runner’s knee. Studies show that obesity has a direct link with knee pain so, for many people, being able to lose weight may help to decrease the pressure being placed on their knees. If you think you may be overweight and have been experiencing a lot of pain around the knee area, you might want to discuss with your doctor ways in which you can safely lose weight.
Using the proper equipment and techniques may also help you to avoid pain associated with runner’s knee. By wearing the right shoes and following the proper exercise forms or safe sporting techniques, you can significantly reduce your risk of injuries and do your best to keep your legs and knees in top condition. You may also want to ask a coach or trainer to help you to gradually increase your exercise intensity. This will help to avoid overloading your knees, allowing you to strengthen them over time instead of damaging them by suddenly placing too much pressure on them.
How to Use Compression Tape for Runner’s Knee
Compression is an important element in the successful treatment of runner’s knee. However, you cannot simply wrap the injured area in any way you choose. In order to ensure that the knee is properly supported and compressed, it is vital to be familiar with the proper wrapping techniques. This will help you to maximize the benefits that compression tape can provide.
Grab a roll of compression wrap or, better yet, a high-quality sports tape like Healit Pro Foam. Sit the patient down on a sturdy table or on the floor, with the foot of the injured leg planted firmly on the same surface. This will allow you to naturally bend the knee at a roughly 45-degree angle.
Position the loose end of the tape on the notch just below the kneecap, where the patella meets the shin bone. Wrap the tape around this part of the lower leg four times, fully overlapping each previous turn until you are satisfied that there is firm compression over the whole covered area, then cut the tape. You can also opt to tighten the wrap to help support your knee later on.
Once the area just below the affected knee has been wrapped, roll the tape from its bottom edge upwards towards the knee, until it forms a rolled up, circular band. Continue to roll this band up towards the affected area of the kneecap and allow it to sit tightly on top of your patella. Although this might be difficult to do using an ordinary compression wrap, this technique provides support and compression for the knee, providing much-needed relief from the symptoms of runner’s knee.
Runner’s knee is a serious condition that often requires immediate medical attention. While it is typically characterized by a dull pain , the degree of pain you feel will depend on the root cause of the injury. In most cases, the pain will be temporary and will only affect you when you attempt further activity. However, there are also instances when runner’s knee can cause pain when the knee is bent at a specific angle, or when touching the affected area. Runner’s knee may also cause inflammation and swelling, particularly when not treated properly, while you may also notice a grinding sensation or clicking sounds in the injured knee.
Runner’s knee does not only affect joggers and runners – it can happen to anyone, especially if you are overweight or if you take part in exercise or sports that persistently put pressure on the knees. While this condition can often be easily relieved using the R.I.C.E. procedure, more serious injuries or severe damage may require medication or even surgery. For minor cases of runner’s knee, though, one of the best tools you can use to provide pain relief and support is compression tape. As long as you use the correct technique, a high-quality compression tape should help to improve stability and limit mobility on the affected knee, and may greatly enhance your recovery.
If you frequently engage in sports that put pressure on your knees, or activities such as hiking, jogging, or biking, we highly recommend that you always carry high-quality sports or compression tape with you. Products like the Healit Pro Foam tape provide compression, cushion, and comfort, as well as being available in a wide range of colors to suit your personal taste. This highly versatile wrap, made from polyurethane foam, is specifically designed to match the contours of your body to meet your needs for a variety of applications.