Runners Knee which is also known as Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) presents itself as pain around or directly behind the knee cap. Not to be confused with Patellar Tendionapathy which is pain at the bottom of the knee cap near the shin bone or ITBS which presents as pain at the side of the knee.
What Causes PFPF?
Initially PFPS was thought to be caused by the patellar (knee cap) tracking incorrectly on the femur or a lack of quadriceps strength to support the stability of patellar. The problem is there is no consensus on what actually causes PFPS. What we can confidently say is that it's an overuse injury from doing too much, too soon, too frequently and your body isn't prepared for it. So addressing areas responsible for distributing load around the joint seem to be the common approach.
How Do We Recover from Runners Knee
Stage 1: Rest - It's the word every runner dreads but is important to allow a reduction in the inflammation/compression we've experienced. How long depends on the individual, but around 7-10 days is a good starting point. The key is that you don't start running again until pain free.
Stage 2: Strength - Engage in low level strength training 3-4x/week utilising movements that help strengthen the quads, hips and glutes (video below). Also consider exercises that challenge strength in multiple planes of motion which is key when it comes to running. You can engage in walking if there is no pain during it.
Stage 3: Return to run test - Complete the following tests on the injured leg to determine if you're ready to return to running once pain free. - Walk for 30 minutes- Hop on the spot for 30 seconds- Perform 15 lunges- Hop forward 10 times- Hop backward 10 times
If you don't experience pain during these tests and the pain doesn't get worse over the next 12 hours then you're good to go. Give it at least a week off running before you try these!
Stage 4: Slow increase of volume - One of the biggest risk factors to getting injured in the first place is doing too much, too quickly. This means increasing weekly mileage more than your body can handle or running too far without the requisite strength endurance. Build back up slowly, continue to incorporate strength training and mobility work into your programme and listen to your body!