Want to get in those 10,000 steps a day, but your knees don't want to oblige? Do you often exercise, but find that with age and time, your knees don't seem to want to keep up with you? Well, you may have a syndrome called "Runner's Knee." Characterized by pain, soreness, loss of range of motion, swelling in and around the joint, and overall discomfort, Runner's Knee is actually a slight misnomer, because it can happen to just about anyone.
What is Runner's Knee?
Also known as Patellofemoral Syndrome, this type of knee pain often happens as a result of the repetitive rubbing of the knee cap, or patella, against the femur bone, leading to the gradual degeneration of the cartilage beneath. The resulting pain is typically in the front of the knee, but in some cases can also be off to the sides or deep within the knee joint.
In cases where there is lateral or deep joint pain, sometimes it is caused by a misalignment of the patella with the femoral joint, which can sometimes even trigger Iliotibial Band (aka IT band) pain.
What Causes Runner's Knee
Contrary to the name, Runner's Knee does not just happen to people who run. Although in many cases, running does tend to be a regular part of the patient's activity. Repetitive stress motions like always walking up and down the stairs, types of work that require you to be on your feet, high impact exercise activities, being overweight, and even having a familial tendency towards arthritis can all be contributing or causal factors for Runner's Knee.
Medical Treatment vs. Acupuncture
If you have been diagnosed with Patellofemoral Syndrome, your doctor may offer the following treatments. Ice therapy, elevation when possible, stopping with some degree of permanence any activity that may aggravate the pain, and taking over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory drugs. Physical therapy may also be offered in cases where the pain becomes severe or prolonged. If all else fails, surgery may be an option as well.
Besides physical therapy, which may help to restore the muscle/tendon/joint alignment, and possibly increase the strength of your muscles above and below the joint for stabilization, the rest of the western treatments do not seem like feasible long-term options. At least, not if it means giving up part of your quality of life. But even with physical therapy, it may mean months of rehab and giving up certain activities which many are unwilling to do.
This is where Acupuncture may be helpful. In Chinese Medicine, we look at all types of pain as a sort of blockage. Whether that blockage is from tightness in the muscles, pinched nerves, or swelling from inflammation prevention proper flow of blood and lymph, when we insert Acupuncture needles to target the affected area, the needles interact with your body's nervous system and the effect is an improvement in the circulation of blood and qi (aka the energetic force driving our cellular and metabolic processes).
How to Prevent Runner's Knee
Making sure that you do not run over uneven ground, that you do not run down hill, and to wear shoes that provide plenty of cushioning and arch support can all be helpful to prevent Runner's Knee from happening with running activity. Regular stretching and warming up, making sure to roll out the muscles of the lower body, especially the IT band by using a foam roller, can also help to prevent pain and injury. Overall exercise and maintaining a healthy weight is also a very important aspect.
When in doubt, come in to Simple Health for an evaluation. In addition to Acupuncture, we may be able to give you helpful tips on stretching or other home therapies to ensure that you are able to keep doing the activities that you love.