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Knee Injuries: General Info

The knee joint is formed at the junction of the thighbone (femur), tibia (shinbone), and kneecap (patella). Strong ligaments hold the bones in position, and tendons attach muscles to the bones. The joint is encased in a capsule that contains a lubricating membrane. Cartilage covers the ends of the bones to facilitate smooth movement.

If you’re a regular runner, the chances are high that at some point one or both of your knees will hurt. You may suffer a trauma that damages the knee suddenly, causing sharp and severe pain or, more commonly, the pain will start as a slight ache felt under the kneecap, or at the front, side or back of the knee. Continuing to run while experiencing pain can lead to a more serious situation developing.

The most common condition experienced by runners is called, appropriately, runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome), although the term is actually a catchall for a variety of disorders caused by a number of situations. Patellar tendonitis (inflammation of the tendon connecting the kneecap to the tibia) and runner’s knee can lead to chondromalacia, iliotibial band friction syndrome, and pes anserine tendonitis and bursitis.

Knee pain as a result of running can be caused by overuse, weak or unbalanced muscles, a change in length or intensity of workout, or a biomechanical misalignment within the knee structure. Or, it might be that your shoes are worn out, or you’ve suddenly started running up and down hills when previously you only ran on the flat.

Whatever the reason, pain in your knee will prevent you running. You will have to rest, recover, and rehabilitate. The trick is to avoid getting injured in the first place.

Warming up properly before running is important. So is wearing suitable footwear. Never increasing your workout by more than 10 percent is recommended. And, allowing your body time to recover between strenuous workouts will help to avoid overuse injuries.

Sometimes, though, no matter how careful you’ve been, you can find yourself with a painful knee injury. Recovery will include resting the joint and preventing over-extending or twisting, which might cause further damage. A knee brace or sleeve can help by restricting movement and providing support.

The type of brace will depend on the type and severity of your particular injury. You may not need the rigid, hinged braces worn for torn AC, MC, or LC ligaments and similar serious injuries; you might need a simple slip-on, neoprene knee sleeve that keeps the joint warm, provides therapeutic compression and support, and makes sure that your kneecap tracks properly. You can wear a brace for just a few days immediately following your injury, or when putting weight back on the leg, or when you’re ready to start running again.

A good knee brace or sleeve can help you recover from your injury more quickly, and give you confidence that your knee will be protected when you’re getting back on the road.