Patellofemoral pain syndrome or runner’s knee is dull pain around or behind the patella or knee cap where the knee connects with the lower end of the femur. It is damage to the cartilage in the knee, typically from overuse.
Causes of runner’s knee
As the name suggests, runner’s knee is caused by running. It can affect people who participate in other sports like, hiking or cycling.
These are the most common symptoms of runner’s knee:
- Knee pain after running or knee pain after sitting with the knees bent over long periods of time.
- Grinding or clicking sound in the kneecap.
- Kneecap (patella) could be tender to the touch.
- Runner’s knee looks like other conditions, so be sure to check with your doctor to be sure.
Your doctor can diagnose runner’s knee by doing a physical exam. X-rays may be needed for additional evaluation of the knee.
Runner’s knee treatment
Your doctor will provide the best treatment based on age, health history, pain threshold, access to therapies and procedures, and more.
The best treatment for runner’s knee is to stop running. Start it up again when you are without pain.
Other runner’s knee treatments
- Apply cold packs
- Elevating the leg
- Using compression knee wrap
- Taking anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen
- Stretching properly
- Doing Strengthening exercises
- Adding arch support to your shoes
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends the RICE method:
RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
- Rest – Avoid putting weight on the painful knee.
- Ice – Use cold packs for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
- Compression – To prevent additional swelling, lightly wrap the knee in an elastic bandage, leaving a hole in the area of the kneecap. Make sure that the bandage fits snugly and does not cause additional pain.
- Elevation – Rest with your knee raised up higher than your heart.
Exercise for runner’s knee
For runner’s knee pain, try a mix of exercises that help in strengthening the knee, hips, and quads.
Upright Quad Stretch
- Stand upright.
- Reach behind your body and grab your left foot with your left hand.
- Bring your left heel up to your butt, or as far as it doesn’t cause pain. (You can use the wall for balance)
- Keep your left knee in close as your stretch.
- Next, hold for 15 seconds.
- Switch to the other leg
- Repeat the stretch on the right side
- Perform 2-3 sets on each leg
If this hurts your knees, try lying on your belly instead. Or use a yoga strap or towel to gently bring your knee up to your glutes.
Back against the wall slide
- Begin standing with your back against a wall.
- Your heels should be around 6 inches in front of your hip bone, and around shoulder-distance apart.
- Slowly slide your back and hips down the wall until your knees are bent around a 45-degree angle.
- Hold for around 5 seconds.
- Stand back up.
- Repeat the slide 10-15 times.
- Perform 2-3 sets.
Big Ass Kick
- Start on a yoga mat on all fours, with arms straight, knees under hips, and shoulders over wrists.
- Slowly lift your left leg behind you and extend it toward the back of the mat.
- Raise it up to hip height and keep your foot flexed.
- Keep your back flat. Press your heel up toward the ceiling for a count of 2. Lower back down.
- Repeat 10-12 times on the left leg.
- Switch to the right.
Runner’s knee prevention
Preventing runner’s knee really boils down to not overusing or overstressing your knees. Of course, that means different things to different people. So, you’ll have to gauge for yourself what overstressing looks like.
Here’s a number of different things you can do as part of your prevention:
- Stretch properly before running
- Increase intensity gradually
- Wear good running shoes
- Lean forward with your knees bent while you run
- lose weight