The most common complaint you’ll hear from runners? “My knee hurts.” That’s right – nearly 42 per cent of all overuse injuries affect the knee joint, and 20 per cent of the local running population suffer from it, says Darek Lam, senior physiotherapist from the Changi Sports Medicine Centre at Changi General Hospital. Although Runner’s Knee (or patellofemoral pain syndrome, in medical-speak) affects twice as many women as men, according to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, we’re still not spared. So we turn to knee supports as a band-aid solution. They may not tackle the problem at the root, but they still work to alleviate pain.
Rejoice! Most knee braces you find in sports shops are actually quite useful, although the best one for you will depend on your specific condition, says Lam. Generally, a knee support can help buttress your joints and make getting in a couple of runs much easier. “Most knee supports only relieve the symptoms but do not correct the cause of the injury,” says Lam. “This can range from over- or-underpronation to weak and imbalanced muscles. Unless corrected, knee supports can be relied upon to alleviate the pain.”
WHAT THEY OFFER
Stability The majority of knee supports serve to stabilise the knee joint, which can be the most important part of the pain-relieving process. “People who suffer from knee pain often also have weak quadriceps,” says Lam. Wearing a knee support can help take the strain off the quadriceps muscle and make running or any activity much easier.
Realignment If your problem lies in your knee joint not tracking (following the right groove) in the right position, specialised knee braces may be required. These feature straps that help realign the kneecap, and may be helpful in correcting muscle imbalances, says Lam. Alternatively, wrapping your knee with a roll of athletic tape is just as effective, according to Indiana University researchers. They discovered that taping is the most effective way to reduce knee pain because it’s best able to realign the kneecap at the right position. This configuration will provide pain relief for both osteoarthritis suffers and the average weekend warrior, say the researchers.
Compression If you’ve injured your patellar tendon (the thick band you can feel below your kneecap), a patella band is essential to provide compression to take the tension off the tendon. The wearer will feel less strain, especially for jumping movements, notes Lam. Patella bands can also be worn higher up the thigh. “This limits the quadriceps muscles’ ability to contract, which may help correct muscle imbalances that can lead to knee pain,” he says.
RUNNER’S KNEE 101 >>
WHAT IT IS
Runner’s Knee is a pain behind your kneecap. It usually flares up after a run, rather than during. When your kneecap slips off track (minutely) over time, the protective cartilage gets rubbed away. The tissues surrounding your kneecap act as a hinge between your largest leg bones. Without it, these bones would fly off into space with each step.
Rub a chunk of ice in circles over the tender area for five minutes. And give it a break by cycling or swimming instead. Now, reduce your mileage when you get back into the game.