As good as running is for your bones, muscles, cardiovascular system, and overall health, it can unfortunately cause certain types of injuries. Whether you are an avid daily runner or only run as it pertains to your particular sport, you can be at risk for a running injury. When it comes to running injuries, the knee is the most common location affected. Unfortunately this is because there are several different structures that make up the knee joint, making it more likely that one or more of these structures can sustain an injury. Here are some of the most common running injuries that affect the knee:
Chondromalacia Patella (CMP)/Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS)
Named after the activity that causes it, runner’s knee is more formally known as patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) or chondromalacia patella. This condition is characterized by damage to the articular cartilage caused by overuse, alignment problems, injury, or ageing. As the articular cartilage becomes softer and breaks down, this causes pain and inflammation in the joint around the knee cap. Knee pain occurs while running or walking up and down stairs and generally increases as exercise intensity increases. Pain can also occur when rising after long periods of sitting.
Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome
The IT band begins at the hip and runs down the outside of the thigh to reach the top of the tibia. When the knee bends, the IT band glides over the outside of the knee joint. However, if the IT band is tight, this makes it harder for it glide smoothly, which causes pain and inflammation. IT band syndrome is characterized by a sharp pain localized to the knobby area just outside the knee. This pain can increase while going downstairs or running downhill. There is no swelling, redness, or knee instability associated with IT band syndrome.
The protective cartilage in your knee is known as your meniscus. Regular pressure on the knee joint from running can cause this cartilage to tear. Acute traumatic meniscus tears commonly occur in younger athletes and are characterized by a popping sound upon injury. Degenerative meniscus tears are commonly seen in middle-aged adults and are caused by repeated stress that gradually weakens the cartilage over time. Both types of meniscus tears can cause joint pain, swelling, and “locking” of the joint.
Although it is not known for sure if regular running causes osteoarthritis, some experts believe that the constant wear and tear on the knee joint during running can cause the joint to wear down faster. Knee osteoarthritis is characterized by achy, stiff, or swollen joints that ache during or after a workout. In addition to running, knee joints may also feel achy while squatting, climbing stairs, and after prolonged periods of inactivity.
Also known as “jumper’s knee”, patellar tendinitis is an overuse injury of the patella tendon that spans from patella to the shin bone. As such, it causes pain at the front of the knee, in the lower kneecap, or in the bony area just above the shin. Pain can vary from a mild pain during exercise to severe pain during daily activities. Pain can also be accompanied by swelling, redness, or warmth. This particular injury is common in people who run down inclines frequently or do a lot of starts and stops while running.