It has been quite a period of time, well actually, it has been two months since I have had the time to write an article for this most worthy publication. In any event I am sitting at home with a non-running injury, a tooth extraction to be exact, which has stopped me from running for a short period of time. So as I reflect upon my situation, I am reminded of the common injuries that runners to which runners are exposed. I believe that without doubt, the most common injury is related to the knee. And when you think about it, there is no wonder. After all, this joint is single-handedly (pardon the mix up in anatomy) responsible to make you move. So, have you had any issues with your knees? Do you think it is structural in nature (i.e. related to the skeletal make up of the body) or related to muscles? It has been my experience over the last number of years that most knee injuries have a muscular component that is initially responsible for the pain in the knee. So how can you discern this? In this article I will touch upon the most frequently asked question.
What causes ongoing knee pain? Knee pain may be age-related. If you are over 40 and have knee pain, one reason to consider is the overall wear and tear on your joints, which is also sometimes referred to as osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis. In younger people, knee pain is commonly caused by trauma or bursitis, usually related to sports or some physical activity.
Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of knee pain and affects many Canadians and more than 16 million Americans. Its is the gradual and painful deterioration of the cartilage in your joints. That cartilage provides a pad between your bones. When it thins, your bones rub against the lining of your joints, which is full of nerves sensitive to pain. Osteoarthritis is more common in people over 40. However, it can strike anyone and often develops earlier in former athletes who suffered knee injuries during their youth. Its early symptoms are pain and stiffness in the morning or after strenuous activity. The morning stiffness usually resolves in less than an hour.
Another disease to be aware of is Rheumatoid Arthritis, an inflammatory disease, triggered by the immune system. It does not affect the proportionally the same number of Canadians as Osteoarthritis, but it damages the cartilage and joint lining. The damaged tissue releases enzymes that eat into the cartilage, soft tissues, and even bone. No one knows what causes the immune system to begin attacking the body’s joints. The problem tends to strike between the ages of 20 and 45, is more common in women, and usually affects many different joints in the body — not just the knees. Early symptoms are fatigue, flu-like aching, joint pain, and morning stiffness that lasts longer than an hour.
Pseudogout occurs when the body forms calcium crystals that are deposited in joints, typically in the knees and wrists. It usually strikes later in life. It can cause quick, severe pain but can produce long-term pain in about half the people it affects, appearing much like osteoarthritis. Early symptoms are red and swollen joints — painful to touch — and sometimes fever in bad attacks. Treatment usually consists of anti-inflammatory drugs or injections of steroids directly into the joint.
Bursitis of the knee occurs when the bursa, a fluid-filled sac that serves as a cushion between a bone and soft tissue, such as a tendon — becomes inflamed. It can be caused by extensive kneeling, infection, or an injury to the knee and usually lasts a few weeks. Early symptoms are pain and swelling just below the inside of the knee. Treatment includes stretching and anti-inflammatory drugs, either pills or injection of steroids. Rarely, surgery is needed.
Tendinitis is one of the most mis-diagnosed conditions for runners and falls within the major group of muscular injuries that I mentioned in my opening paragraph. The tendon that connects the hamstrings in the back of the thigh to the knee can become inflamed and cause pain in the knee area. Treatment includes rest, anti-inflammatory drugs, and physical therapy for stretching and strengthening. Tendinitis requires a doctor’s care because rupture of the inflamed tendon can occur.
Finally, let me speak about Runner’s Knee which is caused by inflammation of the tendons, such as the Iliotibial Band (IT Band). This symptom often develops when you run, ski, or bicycle too much or incorrectly. Symptoms are pain, and sometimes swelling, at the front of the knee. Ligaments are tough bands of tissue connecting bones in your joints that can be stretched or torn when your knee is twisted or hit. Symptoms are immediate and severe pain. Don’t attempt to walk on the leg until you’ve seen a doctor, but remember that often a massage therapist can offer more assistance in treating this injury that a doctor.