Runner’s knee (Patellofemoral pain syndrome) is a condition that’s characterized by pain and/or discomfort originating from the front of the knee and is usually caused from direct bone-to-bone contact of the kneecap with the femur. As the name suggests, runner’s knee is a common condition among runners, as the repetitive compression wears down the protective articular cartilage beneath the patella, leaving it vulnerable to direct contact with the femur. However, the truth is that anyone can develop runner’s knee at any given time in their life, regardless of their physical activity levels.
It’s important to note that runner’s knee may also be used to describe the pain and discomfort caused by irritation of the soft tissue around the knee. If the tissue become inflamed, for instance, the kneecap may swell to the point where it not longer maintains full flexibility; thus, creating runner’s knee. Runner’s knee is somewhat of a blanket term that’s used to describe pain or discomfort in the knee, and in many cases it’s accompanied by inflammation as a related symptom.
The single most common cause of runner’s knee is overuse. When the knee is pushed beyond its normal physical limits, the tendons and muscles may stretch to the point where it caused pain and inflammation. The knee will gradually begin to swell, resulting in a lower range of motion, while the kneecap (patella) may protrude outwards. Runners, basketball players, athletes and other people who place frequent pressure on their knees are considered high risk for developing runner’s knee.
Another common cause of runner’s knee is direct physical injury. Whether the injury is from playing sports, falling, automobile accidents, or any other type of physical trauma, a forceful impact against the knee may trigger the pain and discomfort that’s commonly associated with runner’s knee.
Runner’s knee is often confused or mistaken for a similar condition known as iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS). While these two conditions share some similarities, there’s on major difference between them: the origin of the pain. In runner’s knee, pain originates on the front of the kneecap, whereas pain originates on the sides in ITBS. The first step in properly diagnosing runner’s knee is to identify the exact location of the pain and discomfort, at which point the individual and his or her physician may try to narrow down the possible causes.
There are several preventive measures individuals can take to help reduce their risk of runner’s knee, one of which is to know, and obey, the body’s physical limits. Don’t push yourself to run or perform other physical activities if your body is telling you otherwise. If you’re experiencing minor pain, swelling or general discomfort in one or both of your knees, stop and take a break. The human body usually gives off signs to warn of potential injury, and these are just a few signs of the onset of runner’s knee.
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