Running Tips

The Key Secrets to Preventing (and Treating) Runner’s Knee, According to a Chiropractor

Rachel Lapidos

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Photo: Getty Images/Geber86

Ah, running. It was my first fitness love—the Big to my Carrie, the Dean to my Rory. Despite my undying passion for it, though, I’m well aware that with running comes a lot of potential physical setbacks. Like runner’s knee.

If you’ve had runner’s knee before, you’ll know. It’s basically a god-awful pain in the knee area that prevents you from frolicking around as you so badly want to. “Runner’s knee is a generalized condition that’s just pain around the knee,” explains Gary Olson, MD, chiropractor from the LI Spine & Sports Injury Center. “It can be on the sides of the knee, below the knee, or behind the patella.” Otherwise known as the kneecap.

Since runners knee can hit you in in different spots in your knee area, it can also be attributed to a range of different conditions. “Typically you can have something called chrondomalascia patella, which is a wearing away of the bone on the inside of your knee from abnormal wear and tear,” he explains. “Or your quad muscle can be involved and you can have the iliotibial band [IT band] really tight and pulling on the patella, and may cause generalized patella pain.” So: It’s knee pain, and it sucks.

And, as you can guess, it gets its name from runners, because us mile-loggers are the most common victims of the condition. “It’s very common in runners, and it’s more of an over-use condition because runners tend to run too much.” (Guilty.) If you’re a treadmill titan, you’re not totally exempt from runner’s knee, but it’s more common among people who are literally pounding the (hard) pavement. Because of this, Dr. Olson recommends that anyone who’s training for a race should run on grass instead of hardtop.

As you’ve probably guessed,  stretching is the number one prescribed course of action to keep runner’s knee from kicking in. “The stretching before [a run] is just as important as stretching afterwards,” says Dr. Olson. He recommends stretching your quadriceps, hamstrings, and gastrocs (AKA the back part of your lower leg)—before and after running.

If you already have runner’s knee, he says the best thing to do is ice it and rest until you’re fully healed (which—I’m sorry to report—can take several weeks). And regardless of how your knee is feeling, be sure to regularly take running breaks so you don’t overdo it. “Most people think they have to run all the time, and if they don’t, they’ll lose their strength and stamina,” he says, noting that you don’t lose it nearly as quickly as you think you do. “And stretch all the time—you can never stretch too much.” Imprinting that onto my brain, stat.

Here are some hamstring exercises to incorporate to keep your legs flexible and loose. Also try these wall stretches to open things up pre-run. 

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