Runner’s Knee

What is a runner’s knee?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome refers to pain at the front of knee and around the kneecap (patella) and is often called runner’s knee. There are many structures that control how the kneecap moves in the groove of the femur, and imbalances in these structures can contribute to pain, abnormal tracking of the patella and sometimes wearing of the underside of the kneecap (chondromalacia). Activities that require repetitive bending of the knee may exacerbate the kneecap pain.

What causes runner’s knee?

Several factors may contribute to this condition including unbalanced leg strength, poor core stability, a lack of gluteal strength, an increased kneecap-to-tibia angle (Q-angle), genetic predisposition, repetitive activities and increasing training too quickly.

What are the symptoms of runner’s knee?

The most common symptoms of runner’s knee include:

  • Dull, aching pain
  • Clicking and/or popping under the kneecap
  • Worsens with stairs, kneeling, prolonged sitting or repetitive activities.

How is runner’s knee diagnosed?

A discussion of your symptoms, a physical examination, and X-rays are useful for a diagnosis. Your specialist may recommend having an MRI scan as well.

How is runner’s knee treated?

Minor to moderate cases of runner’s knee should heal on their own given time. There are steps you can take to speed healing, including:

  • Resting your knee
  • Icing your knee for 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours
  • Compressing your knee with elastic bandages, straps, or sleeves
  • Taking anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as Advil, Aleve, or Motrin
  • Performing stretching and strengthening exercises
  • Getting physical therapy

Surgery may be needed in severe cases of runner’s knee. A surgeon can remove damaged cartilage or correct the position of the kneecap so that stress will be distributed evenly.

Are there things I can do to prevent runner’s knee?

Yes, you can prevent runner’s knee by staying in good shape (less weight means less stress on your knees), stretching well before exercising, increasing training gradually, using proper running gear, and making sure your running form is proper.

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