Running is one of the best ways to stay fit and healthy. While the exercise has many beneficial side-effects, it also has some unwanted effects as well, most prominently the risk of injury.
This risk should not prevent you from running if that’s what you want to do because these wounds are nearly always things like muscle pulls or low-grade sprained ligaments. The risk of injury is also quite low, and it’s even lower if you take some preventative steps. When it comes to knee injuries, there are lots of lightweight knee braces that effectively stabilize the muscles and ligaments to prevent inflammation and pain. If an injury does occur, it usually affects the sides, front, or back of the knee.
Side: Meniscal Tears
Torn knee cartilage is usually a meniscal tear. The meniscus is the cartilage between the femur and tibia (shin and thigh bones). That cartilage can tear as a result of a trauma, like twisting the knee, or due to a degenerative condition that’s usually age and use-related. Aside from a “pop” and some initial discomfort, the early symptoms are quite insignificant. Many athletes stay in their games with meniscal tears. Over the next two or three days, however, the pain and swelling get much worse. If not treated properly, meniscal tears often morph into patellar tendinitis, a rather nasty injury that nearly always requires surgery and physical therapy.
Always have a doctor or trainer examine the meniscus tear. If the injury is on the inner part of the knee where blood flow is limited, surgery may be necessary. But most tears are on the outer part of the knee, and for these injuries, the RICE protocol nearly always works.
Rest: Stay off the knee as much as possible. In this particular case, when the cartilage is torn, every step grinds bone against bone. That motion feels as painful as it sounds and also sets the stage for more serious injury, like a fracture.
Ice: Two or three times a day, apply ice to the knee for about fifteen or twenty minutes. That will reduce pain and swelling. Commercial ice packs are best; just make sure that they remain very cold for the entire session.
Compression: Specially-designed custom joint sleeves are usually the best way to decrease inflammation and support the area while the tear heals. An Ace bandage or a KT tape wrap will also do.
Elevation: Some limited range-of-motion exercises should be enough to keep the blood flowing. At all other times, keep the injured knee elevated above the heart.
When the injured knee acts, looks, and feels just like the other knee, the injury is healed. Do not resume normal activity until you are 100 percent better.
Front: Runner’s Knee
Patellofemoral pain syndrome is actually an umbrella term for various muscle and ligament knee injuries that occur on and around the kneecap. Much like meniscal tears, runner’s knee injuries are either trauma wounds or degenerative injuries. But PFPS usually affects the kneecap as opposed to the sides of the knee.
The RICE method usually works for runner’s knee as well. Sometimes, degenerative PFPS starts with ill-fitting shoes that put pressure on the wrong stress points, so consider new shoes or insoles as well.
Back: IT Band Syndrome
The most serious overuse injury normally affects distance runners, but keep in mind that any distance is a long distance for people just starting out. ITBS is usually the most painful non-fracture knee injury as well. It occurs when the iliotibial band, the ligament that connects part of the hip to the shin, becomes inflamed or tight. Since the IT band attaches to the knee and stabilizes this joint, the pain usually presents in the back of the knee.
Since IT Band Syndrome is a ligament injury, the RICE protocol may work, although the recovery time is quite a bit longer. If you do not see any progress after several weeks, a doctor may prescribe injections and perhaps even surgery.
A little knowledge about your fitness knee injury should help you recover even faster, so you can get back to life.