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Seek help for Runner’s Knee

Jerry Vance

Surveys show that 15 million people hit the pavement every day for aerobic exercise. And a good 30 percent end up with the popular ailment called “Runner’s Knee.”

Every pain a runner suffers in the knee area is combined in that one descriptive phrase. The phrase refers to areas of tearing within the knee sleeve which causes rather broad areas of pain that seem to localize on the outside of the knee. As you stand, the location of the pain seems to be in an area running along the outside of the knee, right at the bend of the knee and angling forward and down.

Usually a runner will suffer ankle problems such as sprains, strains, etc., but the Runners Knee syndrome comes in a close second for running injuries. When you study the foot, ankle and knee areas of your body, you find your body’s appendages aren’t quite even. One leg will be longer, the tibia or the femur in the leg will not be even with its counterpart. Or an arch will be higher or lower on one foot than the other. This makes for very uneven foot strike, and results in heavy pressure on one side of the body versus the other.

Medical statistics tell us that the average runner makes contact with the ground an average of 3,000 strikes per mile. When you consider that each one of those 3,000 foot strikes contains three times your own weight, you have a lot of compression on the leg, knee, ankle and foot to absorb that shock. An average runner will run 20 miles a week, compounding that knee trauma to over 60,000 foot strikes per week. The male runner at 150 pounds will come down with 450 pounds of impact with each one of those 60,000 steps. When you have an uneven or minor abnormality in the foot anatomy, you pass that extra shock to the knee which may result in your overuse syndrome called Runner’s Knee.

Supination of the foot can change the foot plant and cause unbalanced push-off for your stride. You automatically flatten your arch to get your big toe on the ground for more power to the push. This creates an excessive torque on the foot which results in an uneven force on the lower leg and the knee.

What do you do with problems of the knee? See a good sports doctor. Since Runner’s Knee usually starts with minor pain and discomfort, be more aware of the impending doom awaiting you and seek help before the pain becomes so intense that you can no longer run.

Orthotics for shoes may correct the supinated foot and quite often can keep the condition from reoccurring.

When you do begin to run again, walk for half of your normal run, even if the running is being done in an aerobic class. Alternate your foot strike from heel to toe, and move your body around when you run to relieve the stress of running in one position. Relax your body when you run so the foot strike is absorbed throughout the body instead of only in the knee area. Work up slowly to your regular distance run and watch for any reoccurrence of pain.

Jerry Vance is certified by the American Council on Exercise and teaches fitness at the Carson City Community Center and for the American Lung Association.