Runner’s Knee - Symptoms, Prevention, Treatment

Did you know that 42% of all those who suffer overuse injuries come from runner’s knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome? This is the most common overuse injury of runners today. The problem occurs when the kneecap irritates the femoral groove on which it rests on the thigh bone. In this type of injury, the knee cap is mistracking.

It could be that the knee cap is larger on the outside and may sit too high in the femoral groove. Or, it may dislocate easily. Or, the cartilage has been so worn that absorption is limited. High arches or flat feet can also trigger issues with the knee cap. Another possible problem results in muscle problems like tight hamstrings and calf muscles, weak quadriceps, and simply the motion of running can cause enough problems to warrant an attack. Any way you look at it, runner’s knee is a serious problem for those who enjoy recreational and/or competitive running.

Runner’s knee is more likely to happen to women than men due to their wider hips which causes even more angling and more potential for issues. Not only that, but it can affect one knee or both. It occurs quite often in younger recreational runners as well.

Runner’s Knee Symptoms

  • Tenderness behind and/or around the knee cap, towards the center
  • Pain toward the back of the knee
  • A sense of cracking or giving out of the knee
  • Steps, hills and uneven ground can make it hurt more

Runner’s Knee Prevention

Obviously, if you are prone to this condition, you need to be able to prevent it and to deal with it. Here are some tips:

  • Run on softer surfaces
  • Keep mileage increases less than 10% in any given week
  • Slowly increase hill work in your program.
  • Get the right shoes. Have a specialty shoe shop take your measurements for your foot type and gait.
  • Strengthening your quadriceps will help with knee cap tracking
  • Stretch your hamstrings and calves to help prevent overpronation.

Runner’s Knee Treatment

When you start to feel any pain as described above, you need to take steps right away.

  • First of all, you’ll need to cut back on your mileage. You’ll need to allow time for the knee to heal. So, lessening the workload it has to do will help allow it to heal.
  • Knee bending activities, slanted surfaces and downward stairs and slopes need to be avoided until the pain is gone. Again, allow it to heal properly.
  • When you get back into running, increase your mileage slowly, and use smaller strides on hills.
  • Don’t forget new shoes!
  • Remember, if the pain persists that it is important for you to get a doctor’s opinion to make sure there is no other problem.


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