What Is Runner’s Knee?

Marathon runner in mid stride

Runner’s knee, also known as Patellofemoral pain syndrome, is when you experience pain in your knee, typically around your kneecap. Runner’s knee is more common in people who are actively involved in sports that involve running and jumping.

Knee pain increases when you run, walk up or down stairs, sit for long periods of time or even squat. Putting ice on your knee and resting it can often times help but physical therapy may be needed.

Runner’s Knee Symptoms

Runner’s knee typically causes a dull, aching pain in the front of your knee. This pain can increase when you:

  • Walk up or down stairs
  • Kneel or squat
  • Sit with a bent knee for long periods of time

Causes of Runner’s Knee

While it’s not positive what causes runner’s knee, it has been associated with:

Overuse: Running or jumping sports puts stress on your knee joint, which causes irritation under the kneecap.
Muscle imbalances or weaknesses: This can be caused when your muscles around your hip and knee don’t keep your kneecap properly aligned.
Injury: Trauma to the kneecap, like a dislocation or fracture, has been linked to patellofemoral pain syndrome.

Maintaining healthy joints while exercising is important to decrease the chances of being diagnosed with runner's knee.

How Is Runner’s Knee Diagnosed?

Your doctor will obtain your complete medical history and conduct a thorough physical examination. This may include a blood test, an MRI scan or a CT scan.

Runner’s Knee Treatment

Your doctor will obviously tailor your treatment to your conditions and symptoms, but in most cases, it can be treated without surgery and with some lifestyle treatments. An easy way to remember home remedies is by using the acronym “RICE”:

Rest: Avoid repetitive stress on the knee.
Ice: Reduce pain and swelling by applying an ice pack or a pack of frozen peas on your knee for up to 30 minutes at a time. Avoid heat to your knee.
Compression: Wrap your knee with an elastic bandage or sleeve to restrict swelling, but make sure not to wrap your bandage too tightly as to cause swelling below the knee.
Elevation: Place a pillow under your knee when you sit or lie down to prevent further swelling. If there is significant swelling, keep your foot elevated above your knee and keep your knee above the level of your heart.

Ask your doctor about taking medications, but acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help relieve some pain or discomfort.

Runner’s Knee Physical Therapy:

Your physical therapist may suggest:

Rehabilitation exercises: Specific exercises can strengthen muscles around your knee and control limb alignment. Correcting inward movement of the knee during squatting is a primary goal.
Supportive braces: Knee braces and arch supports might be helpful.
Taping: Your physical therapist may show you how to tape your knee to reduce pain and help your movement.
Ice: Icing your knee after repetitive use may be helpful.
Low-impact activities: During recovery, you may want to restrict yourself to knee-friendly activities such as bicycling, swimming and running.

(Low Impact) Physical Therapy for Runner’s Knee

If you’re experiencing knee pain, it’s important to consistently do low-impact, strengthening exercises to enhance your quads, hamstrings and muscles surrounding your knee. Follow the video below for an example of a strengthening routine.

Get Help and Treatment With Alexander Orthopaedic Associates

At Alexander Orthopaedic Associates, we are passionate about restoring your quality of life. If you consider yourself a weekend warrior and athlete who suffers from knee pain, let’s talk. Call us today or schedule an appointment online.