Guide to Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee is one of the most common overuse injuries experienced by runners.  It can cause pain in the front of the knee, around the knee, or behind the knee cap.  Read on to learn more about runner’s knee.

What is Runner’s Knee?

Runner’s knee is also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS).  The pain originates from the patella, which is the knee cap, as it moves at the knee joint.  Doctors believe that runner’s knee is caused by the way that the knee cap glides with the femur (thigh bone).  This can be caused by imbalance, tightness, or weakness of the thigh muscle.  The calf muscles and iliotibial (IT) band can also be involved in the problem.

Overuse often contributes to runner’s knee.  Sometimes, it occurs as the result of overcompensating for another injury.

Recognizing Runner’s Knee

Despite the name, you don’t have to be a runner to get runner’s knee.  Runners, walkers, and athletes from all types of different sports can develop it.  If you have pain in the vicinity of the kneecap, there is a good chance that it is runner’s knee.

This pain can present as anything from a dull ache to a sharp, burning pain.  The pain is not limited to when you are being active, either.  Runner’s knee can cause pain when you are sitting in the car for an extended period of time or sitting in a movie theatre.  The knee might pop, feel weak or unstable, or give out suddenly.

Treatment for Runner’s Knee

If you have runner’s knee, you may need to temporarily cut back on your activity.  Rest the knee, apply ice, and (if advised by your doctor or pharmacist), take anti-inflammatory medication.  It is particularly important to apply ice to the knee after activity.

Home exercises and stretching can help to strengthen the knee and reduce pain.  Check out these exercise instructions for runner’s knee: http://mydoctor.kaiserpermanente.org/ncal/Images/Patellofemoral%20Pain%20Syndrome_tcm28-180773.pdf.

You should also take a look at your running shoes.  Do you notice that the bottoms of the shoes are unevenly worn?  You may have an imbalance in your gait that is contributing to your pain.  Visit a specialised shoe store ( custom shoe shop ) and have a gait analysis performed.  This will identify any gait abnormalities, such as over pronating or under pronating.  In many cases, using orthotic devices to correct the gait will help to relieve pain.

Preventing Runner’s Knee

There are several things that you can do to prevent runner’s knee.  Be sure to always stretch thoroughly before running, and don’t overdo. Slowly increase your mileage over a period of time to help you increase your strength and flexibility.   Don’t increase your mileage by more than 10% per week at the maximum.

Cross-training can also help to prevent injury.  It helps to strengthen different muscles than you would use for running, which prevents muscle strength imbalances.  Try to run on softer surfaces, too.  Pavement is hard on the body, so try a softer surface to decrease the impact on your knees.

Finally, wear proper shoes.  The shoes should be high-quality, but they also need to be the right type of shoes for your feet.  Visit a specialised shoe store ( custom shoe shop ) for a gait analysis.  The professionals there can recommend the best shoes for your particular gait and needs.  You might also benefit from over the counter arch supports or custom made arch supports.  These devices can provide the support and stability that you need to help prevent or recover from an injury.

At Foot Solutions, we provide gait analysis as well as a wide selection of shoes, over the counter arch supports, and custom arch supports.