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The running scene in Singapore has undeniably been exploding. Over the past three years, the Standard Chartered Marathon has boasted over 40,000 runners each year. In the month of April 2016 alone, there were over ten different marathons anyone in Singapore could sign up for.
Evidently in Singapore, the demand for running is high. With that many running enthusiasts, you would probably know a handful of people who do run. Among this handful, there might even be a few who suffer from a terrible condition called the runner’s knee. You could potentially be a victim of runner’s knee and not even know it!
The ABCs of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
More commonly known as runner’s knee, Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) is one of many syndromes characterized by pain in the knee joint. The most common type of knee pain in PFPS is a dull pain around the knee cap, and a more focused pain behind the kneecap.
These painful sensations are often hard for affected individuals to locate with pinpoint accuracy. Other symptoms may include noises made from knee joint movement and also the dislocation of the knee joint itself.
A study showed that 42% of all overuse injuries are related to runner’s knee. This is definitely a cause for concern in a country where many of us run for leisure.
What Causes Runner’s Knee?
Before we try to eliminate runner’s knee, we need to understand its root cause. The key words to take note of are frequency and activity pattern.
Increasing mileage while running is one of the leading causes of developing runner’s knee. For instance, while training for a marathon, inexperienced runners may increase their mileage impulsively in a bid to squeeze in hurried fitness improvements. Coupled with factors such as poor footwear and bad form, this can prove detrimental to our knees.
Another scenario would be training improperly for a vertical marathon. Many of us are used to running ‘horizontally’. Changing our exercise routine thus requires us to exert force in a way that our knees are not used to. Our knee joints would then be more prone to being misaligned while running in a vertical motion, and that’s how we develop runner’s knee.
Running is a healthy activity but let us not forget to run healthily.
Practical Ways to Prevent Runner’s Knee
Increase Core and Lower Body Strength
Aside from buying fancy gadgets from running stores, what you could do is condition your body before even exerting it. Many sufferers of runner’s knee underestimate the importance of strong core and leg muscles. These are the muscles that support a runner in motion. What a weak core does to your knees, essentially, is apply an overload of pressure on your knee joints every time you take a step forward.
Now you know why and how our knees are so prone to overuse injuries as compared to other joints. Be sure to develop a stronger core and lower body before engaging in longer distances.
Limit Your Increments While Training
A good benchmark for increasing your running mileage would be to keep your increments to less than 10% per week. As already mentioned, frequency is a major factor in contributing to the development of runner’s knee. Being runners ourselves, we understand the love and thrill of pushing our bodies to achieve outstanding results, even if it means more pain. However, as runner’s knee creeps in, our inflated ego will do little to save us from further injuries and pain.
For vertical marathon enthusiasts, try hill running or using a skipping rope to get your body gradually used to the vertical and slightly more explosive motion required of the legs.
You might think that Singapore has little to offer in terms of green spaces, but if you took a trip to Telok Blangah Hill or Bukit Kalang, you would immediately be proven wrong. The scenery is breathtaking and perfect for some (productive) hill training.
Opt for Softer Surfaces
Running on hard surfaces exerts high physical impact on the knee joints. Opt instead for softer surfaces such as turf, wood-chips or track. It’s easy to put on a pair of shoes and head for the streets around your HDB flat to do some running. However, our advice to you would be to think twice.
Sprawled out across Singapore are numerous public stadiums with suitable, soft ground for running. These stadiums are easily accessible to most of us and taking a trip down to protect those precious knees is well worth it.
When You Feel the Pain Inching In
If you begin to feel runner’s knee creeping in, cut down on your training regimen and get sufficient rest and downtime to allow for recovery. At the same time, as mentioned earlier, work on those core and lower body muscles.
Running is a healthy activity, but let us not forget to run healthily.
Does Runner’s Knee Only Affect Runners?
Contrary to its name, runner’s knee does not only affect runners. A study showed that activities which engage the knee joint in repetitive motion and a high intensity of said motions are key causes of runner’s knee. Think volleyball and basketball players - they are not immune to the harmful effects of runner’s knee.
Running is undeniably a healthy sport to take part in, but we should take the necessary precautions to prevent unnecessary problems such as the runner’s knee.
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