Runner’s Knee and Massage Therapy

Written by Julieta Hernandez , Posted in Articles, Massage Therapy, Sports Massage

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What is Runner’s Knee?

Runner’s knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome, is the name given to a specific set of conditions that involve overuse or injury of the muscles in the kneecap and thigh. Running places immense stress on the tendons, bone, and muscle in the knees and thighs, giving rise to the condition called runner’s knee. While running, the thighs and hamstrings pull on the tendons that connect them to the kneecaps. If the muscles are too tight, this can overwork the knee. Without proper training and rest, this causes runner’s knee. This is very similar to what happens in Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome, a condition in which the IT band that extends from the hip constantly rubs against the thigh and puts stress on the knee.

Symptoms of Runner’s Knee

  • Pain in the kneecap area
  • Pain when moving the knee
  • Increasing pain when walking downstairs or down a hill
  • Swelling
  • Popping
  • Tenderness

What Causes Runner’s Knee?

  1. Lack of rest

Be sure to give your body enough rest between running sessions. Do not over train. If you have pain in your thighs or knees that seems worse than the usual soreness, be sure to take a few days off from running.

  1. Injury

Any type of fall or hit to the knee can cause runner’s knee.

  1. Alignment

Bones or tendons that are out of alignment places extra stress on the knee. Often, the cause of runner’s knee is found to be an improperly aligned kneecap.

  1. Fallen arches or flat feet

If your arches are fallen or you have flat feet, this puts you more at risk for runner’s knee. Arches support the feet and legs and evenly distributes weight and stress. When the arches no longer provide support, this puts added strain on your muscles and knees, especially when running. To prevent this, wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes that support the arches. If you have flat feet, be sure and wear inserts to support your arches.

  1. Improper shoes

Improper or overly used shoes can lead to runner’s knee due to lack of support. Make sure you buy new shoes that are specifically designed for runners. A good rule of thumb is to replace your running shoes every 500 miles.

  1. Running downhill

When running, especially if you’re getting into a new routine, avoid running downhill as much as possible. While this seems counter intuitive, running downhill actually puts more stress and strain on your knee. This is due to the biomechanics of the way your knee bends while you move down slopes. Your body is trying to overcome gravity, and this causes your knee to bend to the side while running.

  1. Weak hip adductors

Weakness in the hips puts you more at risk of runner’s knee. This is because the adductors don’t have enough strength to keep your legs properly aligned while running. This causes uneven wear in your muscles and tendons, which pulls on your knee. Regular sports massage and warm-ups keep this muscle group strong.

  1. Anterior hip tightness

Anterior hip tightness is common in runners. This tightness in the hips causes a lack of flexibility and range of motion that increases the risk of runner’s knee. To loosen your hips and prevent an injury, make sure you stretch and warm up before running. Make sure the stretches target the hip flexor and thigh region.

  1. Uneven leg length

When one of your legs is slightly shorter than the other one, the longer leg is always compensating. This causes an uneven gait, which puts strain on the knees and makes you more likely to overuse them. You can wear insoles to even your leg length. If the discrepancy is small enough, incorporating stretches and flexibility exercises into your routine can be enough to prevent runner’s knee.

Diagnosis of Runner’s Knee

If you suspect you have runner’s knee, see a doctor, physical therapist, or biomechanical expert to get properly diagnosed. Runner’s knee can mimic other types of injuries, some of which can require surgery if they are left untreated. Also, an expert can determine the exact cause of the injury and help you get the proper treatment.

Runner’s Knee Treatment

  • Rest – Often, the first step in treatment is rest. Runner’s knee is usually caused by overuse, so be sure and take a couple days off from running to allow your knee to recover. For some, this is the only treatment that is needed.
  • Ice – Ice doesn’t directly treat the cause of the injury, but it eases your symptoms. Ice reduces swelling and numbs pain and soreness. Keep the ice on your knee for twenty minutes. You can repeat this every three hours until your injury heals.
  • Stretches – Stretches ease tightness in the muscles and joints and allows for flexibility. As the muscles relax, this lessens the load on the knee and helps it heal. [click here for specific stretches]
  • MassageMassage works in a similar way to stretching in that it loosens the muscles. But, massage offers the benefit of being able to pull the muscles and tendons into better alignment.

Here are the types of massage that can help runner’s knee:

  • Active release
  • Swedish
  • Trigger point
  • Deep tissue

If you suspect you have runner’s knee, rest and get a professional diagnosis right away. Ask your doctor about how a professional sports massage from Matrix Spa & Massage can help your symptoms of Runner’s Knee. The sooner you get treatment, the sooner you can get back on your feet.

Julieta Hernandez

Julieta is the owner of Matrix Spa & Massage in Salt Lake City, UT. She and her staff pride themselves on providing the best massages in a truly comfortable and relaxed environment.

Massage Therapy FAQ’s

The law always requires that you be appropriately covered with sheets or towels to keep you comfortable and warm. If you start feeling uncomfortable or exposed, speak up. Your therapist will respect your wishes and work with you to make the massage session a comfortable one.
No, only undress as much as you are comfortable with. Some people prefer undressing completely, while others prefer to keep undergarments on. You'll have privacy in your massage room to undress before the session and redress afterwards.
It depends on your massage therapy goals. Some people get a monthly massage to manage stress or to prevent health problems. Others opt for weekly sessions if they need relief from injuries and chronic tension.
Licensing and certification mean that the massage therapist can legally practice massage in your city or state. To get this license, they must have performed several hours of training at an accredited school, past the extensive licensure exam, and have paid any relevant licensing fees.
Every insurance plan works a little differently, so your best bet is to contact your insurer directly. Some plans do cover alternative therapies including chiropractic and massage. You will likely need a doctor's prescription first. If you don't have health insurance, or if it doesn't cover massage therapy, you can find massage therapy coupons and discounts on our site.
How much depends on how pleased you are with the service and how much the massage costs (the full price, not any discounted fees). One easy trick is to think about how you would tip a waiter after a similarly priced restaurant meal. This is often 15-20% or more if you received exceptional service.
Let your massage therapist know before the session if there are areas on your body that you don't want to be touched. They will have the training and experience to give you a therapeutic massage while working around ticklish or sensitive places like your feet or abdomen.
Yes, absolutely. You should always speak up if something is uncomfortable. Secondly, keep the lines of communication open during deep tissue massage or sports injury massages. Your therapist needs the feedback to work on you properly and without aggravating an injury. On the other hand, if you are looking for relaxation, it's often best not to talk unless necessary. This lets your mind as well as your body release tension. With the right mindful breathing technique, you may even achieve a stress relieving meditative state during the massage.
Most likely, unless your doctor says otherwise. Prenatal massage can reduce and relieve common pregnancy issues like lower and upper back pain, sciatic nerve irritation, swelling, tension headaches, heartburn and constipation, and more. Let your massage therapist know that you're pregnant so they can use the right techniques during the session.

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Brynn P.
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