Prevent Runner's KneeAs winter begins to wind down and both recreational and competitive runners begin to look forward to warmer weather and perhaps the first their first race of the year, Bend physical therapist Rob Hollander urges runners to train thoughtfully with an eye toward prevention, especially when it comes to the most oft-experienced running injury: runner’s knee.

Known clinically as patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), runner’s knee is an overuse injury caused when the thigh bone (femur) rubs against the back of the knee cap (patella), irritating and damaging the soft tissues beneath the knee cap. This leads to a dull, aching pain around the front of the knee.

“Runner’s knee is common in runners who go out every day for training or personal fitness – a condition that may be attributed to weak thigh muscles, running form, improper footwear, and even reduced flexibility,” said Hollander, co-owner of Alpine Physical Therapy. “And it’s a condition not limited to just runners. Anyone who regularly takes part in activities with a lot of running and jumping is susceptible to runner’s knee.”

In fact, about one-quarter of the general population will suffer from runner’s knee at some point of their lives. By far the most common overuse injury among runners, one statistic from a 2013 spring edition of Sports Health says that runner’s knee can account for up to 40 percent of all knee complaints made in sports medicine clinics.

“The good news is runner’s knee is treatable, oftentimes with just a little rest,” Hollander said. “But if you want to prevent this from becoming a regular issue, or if you want to experience the joy of running without being sidelined, there are things you can do to reduce the chances of suffering from runner’s knee.”

Warm Up & Stretch: A simple five-minute warmup and some light stretching before running can loosen your muscles while improving your knee’s flexibility, reducing the changes of injury

Ramp Up Gradually: Don’t do too much too fast. As your fitness level increases, gradually increase the times and distances you run. Abrupt changes to the distance and intensity of workouts can put your body at risk of injury.

Take Days Off: Don’t run every day. Give your body some time off from the repetitive motion and impact of running to prevent overuse. That’s not to say you can’t exercise on off days; just mix it up.

Check Your Shoes: If your shoes don’t offer the proper support for your foot type and body due to a bad purchase or long-term wear, your running form will be negatively impacted throughout your entire kinetic chain. This can put additional pressure on your knees and other joints, making you more susceptible to runner’s knee.

Stay Fit: Extra weight only adds to the wear and tear on your knees from the impact of running, increasing your chances of developing overuse injuries like runner’s knee. So do your best to keep off the extra pounds.

Ensure Proper Form: A professional gait analysis from a licensed physical therapist can put you in the greatest position for preventing runner’s knee injuries. By thoroughly analyzing your personal running form, strength and flexibility a physical therapist can precisely pinpoint the probable causes (or future causes) of runner’s knee injuries, be it improper footwear or poor biomechanics due to muscle weaknesses.

“Once weaknesses are identified, we as physical therapists can then create a personalized plan for overcoming these weaknesses – new shoes or insoles, for instance, or a personalized exercise regimen – all with an eye toward preventing future injury and keeping you on the running paths,” Hollander said.