Battling runner's knee? Get back on track with these measures

Runners hit the track all night  Credit: Matt Turner/Allsport
You know you have runner's knee (sometimes called chondromalacia) when you feel pain beneath your kneecap while running.

Sometimes you can feel pain even when you're not running, especially when walking down stairs. Runner's knee is often caused by the kneecap not tracking properly. This makes the undersurface of your kneecap rub against your femur.

To get back on track, try the following.

Best new alternative remedy: In a study done at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., a group of athletes who took the gelatin supplement Knox Nutrajoint for eight weeks reduced their knee pain more than a group that took a placebo. The amino acids in gelatin may repair mild cartilage damage, says David Pearson, Ph.D., the Ball State researcher who led the study.

Best new mainstream treatment: Many runners have a weak inner quadricep muscle (in the inner thigh) and stronger outer quadricep. This imbalance tends to pull your kneecap out of alignment, says Dr. Fredericson of Stanford. Leg extensions, often prescribed for weak quads, actually put too much pressure on your kneecap, and may exacerbate your injury. Instead, strengthen your quads with the following exercises:

  • Use a leg-press machine, but only work one leg at a time, and only lower your leg 30 degrees from the starting position.

  • Cross-train by cycling, which strengthens your inner quads.

    Try this also:

  • Cut back on hill repeats and stair-climbing.

  • See a sports medicine specialist for orthotics if you overpronate or have knock-knees.

  • Ice your knee for 15 minutes after you run.

  • Get a regular massage that emphasizes your quadriceps and ITB area.

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