With the London Marathon taking place on Sunday 23rd April, both amateur and professional runners will be gearing up for their longest training runs before starting off their marathon taper to allow their body to recover for race day.
However, you may be experiencing a dull, aching pain around or behind the kneecap that worsens when going downstairs, bending, kneeling or even after sitting for extended periods. The knee joint can feel tender and swollen to the touch and there may be a popping or grinding sensation. The knee can feel unstable.
Runner’s knee, known medically as patellofemoral pain syndrome or PFPS, is estimated to affect between 15 and 40% of all runners training for marathons.
The kneecap is held in place by the quadriceps tendon and patella tendon, and when the leg extends, the kneecap should retract smoothly into the femoral groove on the thigh bone. If it fails to do so, then it can be excruciating.
Common risk factors are long runs, inward rotating or pointed knees, tight or weak hips and glutes, excessive pronation, and overuse.
Another painful knee condition is iliotibial band syndrome, which is thought to affect 14% of runners. Pain is usually felt down the side of the knee.
The iliotibial band or IT band is a long tendon that runs from the glutes to the knee and helps stabilise the knee joint. If the IT band repeatedly rubs against the lower end of the thigh bone where it meets the knee, this can cause inflammation and pain.
Is runner’s knee surgery necessary?
The first step is to explore non-surgical intervention. Initially, this will be to avoid activities that are causing pain and follow the RICE protocol of rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Exercises that improve the flexibility and strength of your thigh muscle will be advised. Knee taping, a knee brace or orthotics may be prescribed.
If conventional treatment fails, runner’s knee surgery may entail realignment of the knee joint or arthroscopy to remove any damaged fragments in the knee joint.
For more advice on treating runner’s knee, call 07724 909 414 to arrange a consultation at Mr Neil Hunt’s knee clinic. Consultation and surgery are available in London, Leeds and York.