Should you wear compression sleeves for recovery? Let's find out. As you may know compressions sleeves…
If you suffer from runner's knee, then you're in the right place:
Runner’s knee is a very painful condition. It is prevalent among athletes who are prone to frequent knee flexing activities such as running, cycling etc.
However, there are many misconceptions attached to this condition and I will attempt to guide you clearly, with everything you should know about runner’s knee.
If you are one of those affected by this injury, or have been in the past, you would know, it causes a painful sensation around the kneecap area which makes it difficult or impossible for anyone to conduct any activity that involves bending the knees.
Now without further ado, let’s dive in…
Here’s an interesting titbit of information that the majority of people are unaware of:
Runner’s knee is simply the effect of an underlying condition, that is, it is not an ailment in itself, but is a condition that occurs when affected by certain injuries/syndromes.
Runner’s knee can be caused by any one of the following (multiple if you are disastrously unlucky):
Fortunately, there is a straightforward approach to finding out what type of runner’s knee is causing that shooting pain in your knees every time you try and run.
If the pain you experience, seems to be centered around the side of your knee, you can be certain that it is the Iliotibial Band syndrome that is causing the pain.
On the other hand, if the pain seems to be based right under your kneecap, Patellofemoral syndrome is bound to be the culprit.
Plica syndrome and Chondromalacia Patellae can be detected by any imaging scan like the MRI, additionally, people suffering from Chondromalacia Patellae will feel a grinding sensation during knee flexion.
Here’s the deal:
All this might sound very medical and advanced, and it is, but it is also essential that you diagnose and understand what type of injury affects your knee otherwise you will not be able to follow up with an appropriate method of treatment.
Runner’s knee is one of the most misdiagnosed ailments in the world due to the fact that people do not know the different types that exist and they end up following a remedy to one type while they might be affected by another type.
All the dire, doom-spelling medical mumbo-jumbo comes to an end, and now:
I will go about explaining how to treat runner’s knee effectively. Incorrect treatment of this condition can lead to several months of delay in your recovery process.
Check this out! Based on the type of runner's knee pain you experience, here are the 4 types of treatments you should follow.
Since ITBS affects the Iliotibial band, the best strategy to treat this condition is regular and gradual bolstering of the muscles that control the rotation of the thigh muscle or femur, the position of the pelvis and ensure the Iliotibial Band is not compressed or stretched away from the hip region.
The aforementioned muscles are the hips and the glutes, strengthening these will go a long way in treating ITBS and dumping the pain and inconvenience as soon as humanly possible. There are 3 steps involved in the treatment of this type of runner’s knee (Several medical studies like this one prove the effectiveness of this treatment):
It is essential that you do not continue overexertion of your knee if you are affected by this condition (sounds obvious, but too many people ignore this).
The best ways to control the inflammation that causes the pain linked to runner’s knee or ITBS are ice packs, rest and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
If the inflammation is so severe that it is restricting even basic movement, corticosteroid injections are an option that will help alleviate the swelling.
Please keep in mind that managing the inflammation alone does not cure your runner’s knee condition in any way, it simply paves the way for the actual treatment to begin.
Now that the inflammation has subsided and the pain has considerably reduced, deep tissue massages are the way to go. This helps relax and toughen the previously inflamed band, muscles and tissues.
The massage also helps in relieving the tension present in the tendon due to your condition.
Though it is recommended to get a massage from a certified professional, you can work with foam rollers if your budget doesn’t allow you the luxury of the former. This stage assists in preparing for the final step in the treatment of ITBS.
Several studies have shown that strengthening the glutes and hips is the best treatment for ITBS.
However, this is not possible to achieve with an inflamed knee, thus the steps 1 and 2. A therapy band (rubber tubing) is recommended to carry out the exercises required to alleviate the ITBS condition.
I have listed 3 simple exercises, that help in this process, below:
1- Raise your legs to the side at an angle of 45 degrees.
Repeat this around 20 times or less if you start experiencing pain. Another version of this is performing the same action while adding the therapy band to the ankles to provide an increased resistance in this activity. However, the second version should be started only after the pain from the inflammation has completely subsided.
2- The clamshell is a well-known exercise which strengthens the hips and the glutes.
It consists of lying down on your side, with legs folded at 90 degrees in front of you. Now proceed to lift the upper leg and bring it back down. Repeat this action 20 times or until pain kicks in. Use the therapy band between your thighs to add resistance to this exercise.
3- Side Shuffle is another popular exercise that helps in bolstering the areas affected by ITBS, the process is as follows:
Bend your knees to achieve a half squat position, now shuffle to the side in 10 steps, stop and shuffle to the other side for 10 steps. Repeat this 3-4 times or until you start experiencing discomfort.
Since the Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) affects the knee itself unlike Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS), rather than the band that passes through it, the treatment procedures for managing this cause of runner’s knee tends to differ from the ones for ITBS (Source).
90% of people suffering from PFPS recover fully without requiring any surgical procedure whatsoever, so that should make you feel slightly better if you are one of those affected by runner’s knee due to PFPS.
Plica syndrome in a majority of cases corrects itself after providing you with a brief stint of pain and discomfort in your knee. Hence, managing the swelling that occurs due to this syndrome is paramount. Resolving runner’s knee caused by the Plica syndrome can be done by 2 methods (Source):
This is crazy:
Dealing with a knee injury is no walk in the park. The constant pain, the inconvenience, the inability to get up and about and giving up doing what you love (running, jogging, yoga, cycling etc.) for long periods of time is enough to get on anyone’s nerves. Hence, it is crucial that this injury be sorted out as quickly as possible, so you can resume your normal routine.
The recovery for a person affected by runner’s knee depends on a number of factors such as severity of the damage, correct diagnosis of the cause, prompt treatment etc. The healing process could be anywhere between a few days for mild cases, and up to a year for severe cases.
Now that I have gone over all the scary stuff involving needles, ice, and surgery to treat runner’s knee, you might be thinking: ‘OK, you’ve successfully scared me, now tell me how to prevent this from ever happening to me’. Don’t fret as I have compiled the best ways to minimize the chance of ending up with a runner’s knee condition.
It’s time for a reality check unfortunately. These prevention measures will have very insignificant impact on those who have physical defects, either from birth or through trauma. Some form of treatment is inevitable for people having defects in their knees as no exercise can cure these conditions (till date).
Here's the best part:
There are several products in the market that claim to make a difference in the recovery speed of those affected by runner’s knee and minimizing the risk of getting affected by it.
The majority of the products that claim to perform magic on your knee and instantly heal it are bound to be driven by marketing gimmicks and misinformation.
I stripped away all the fluff from these tools and found two that seem to actually work and have several studies supporting their claim that, use of their product has a significant impact on both the rate of runner’s knee injuries and recovery time of those already affected by the condition.
Prolonged exertion, however, leads to the muscle becoming tight due to the tightening of the connective tissue to protect muscles from further breakdown. This causes the formation of knots in the muscles in specific areas, these knots can be identified by running your hand over the affected area, the spot should feel tight and balled up.
Foam rollers are often used by athletes and trainers to help in strengthening and inhibiting muscles that are overworked and overexerted over the course of training and sports.
The technique employed by foam rolling is called a self-myofascial release, it is proven to help substantially when it comes to people suffering from runner’s knee and people who overexert those muscles and wish to avoid the pain and inconvenience of suffering from the condition in the future.
The quality of the foam roller is critical since a wrong density or build can have the opposite effect on your body and may end up causing damage instead of rehabilitating your knee and/or muscles. The use of a foam roller is one of the best ways to repair muscle knots.
Here is how to use one correctly:
Selecting the right foam roller is crucial and I went over a few options in the market, but the one of the few products that offered reliability and also had several professionals backing it, was the Bodhivana Foam Roller.
The product is well-balanced and provides a uniform density and applies only the required pressure on the muscles, thereby, strengthening them. It has an added advantage of having long lasting foam, this means that your roller will not disintegrate into shreds with a few months of use.
Studies have shown that compression sleeves and patella straps do help in reducing pressure on the knees while allowing the user to maintain the same level of performance as without the brace.
The compression sleeve has two major uses, first, it provides compression to the knee and surrounding areas and secondly, it keeps the brain informed that the knee might need some extra support during the activity being performed, that will keep the body aware of this fact.
Patella straps on the other hand, assist the kneecap in maintaining proper motion during knee flexion, as nature intended. Correcting the way your kneecap goes a long way in preventing runner’s knee and using these straps have been known to be beneficial too.
Selecting an appropriate brace is also critical since a wrong choice would lead to damage, instead of the support that you were expecting. There are numerous options in the market which promise to magically heal everything to do with your knees, so I set about to do some research. I found that the majority of the products in the market did not work, or they had several issues attached to them, consequently, making their use a downright nuisance. The major problems I witnessed with some popular brands are – sliding down the knee while exercising, providing too much compression, which causes damage to an inflamed knee or providing little to no compression that does not help the knee in any way.
That's why at WIMI Sports & Fitness we offer a complete solution: a Compression Knee Sleeve + Double Patella Strap.
This knee system provides the optimal level of compression needed to support your knee and has an adjustable double patella strap that does not slide down to your ankles or change positions at the slightest pretext.
I have tried to cover everything pertaining to the runner’s knee condition and reading this guide should be enough to prevent runner’s knee or treating it and getting back on your feet faster.
Please note that this is in no way a substitute for the advice or recommendations of a healthcare professional. The methods of treatments, preventive measures and tools to help you do so have been medically proven to help with this condition and the studies/papers linked will provide a more authoritative source on the claims I have made (like this and this).
Consider having a physical therapist on payroll if you are involved in performing activities that overexert your knees and body in general, trust me, there is no replacement to the value that a professional can add to your training regimen.
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Product images sourced from Amazon.com.