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Home |  Blog |  What is Runner’s Knee? Learn from IBJI

What is Runner’s Knee? Learn from IBJI

If you’re an athlete or a running enthusiast, you could be at risk for runner’s knee. Any sport or exercise that forces you to regularly bend your knees, can put you at risk. Low impact sports such as bicycling, as well as high impact sports, like basketball, all carry some level of risk of developing the symptoms of Runner’s knee.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (Runner’s Knee)

The medical term for runner’s knee is patellofemoral pain syndrome, due to the pain being behind the patella and close to the femur. This syndrome is used to group together a number of disorders with similar symptoms. The disorders that can cause runner’s knee include:

  • Knee injury due to trauma
  • Repetitive motion
  • Tendons stretched too far
  • Bones that are slightly out of place
  • Excessive weight
  • Weak muscles in the upper leg
  • Foot problems that cause the patients to walk differently
Some of the symptoms associated with runners knee are:
  • Pain when the knee is bent
  • The pain is usually near the top of the knee
  • Swelling in the knee
  • A painful popping noise
  • Going downstairs makes the pain worse
  • Pain behind the kneecap (patella)
  • A grinding noise from the knee
  • Pain after sitting for a long time, with transition from sitting to standing
  • Pain when squatting or lunging 

In combination, any of these symptoms run the risk of one’s predisposition to developing runner’s knee. 

So, what are common running mistakes that may lead to runner’s knee?

IBJI’s Dr. Sean Sutphen says, “Patients with runner’s knee have an unequal distribution of stress or contact about the knee cap that is causing pain. Continuing to run when having pain could increase the intensity of pain and lengthen the recovery time.”

To help prevent the likelihood of getting runner’s knee, Dr. Sutphen advises, “If you’re a runner, you should consider changing your shoes every 300-400 hundred miles. Stretch prior to running, the most important muscle groups to stretch prior to running are the quadricep muscles and IT band.”

At the time of diagnosis, Dr. Sutphen says that the patient should stop running or at least decrease running to give your knee a chance to recover and to build strength in the muscles that are weak.

Healing From Runner’s Knee

In many cases the treatments for runner’s knee are fairly simple. You may just be advised to use R.I.C.E., which means Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Dr. Sutphen recommends icing for twenty minutes at a time for 3-4 times a day. Patients should refrain from any activities that are exacerbating the knee pain including lunges, squats, high-intensity workouts and impact sports for the time being. An orthopedic physician is able to prescribe anti-inflammatories or physical therapy. 

The physical therapy program should be started to improve the strength throughout the leg. You may also require orthotics. “In some cases when physical therapy does not allow for significant improvement over six to eight weeks, further advanced imaging, such as an MRI, can detect possible cartilage injuries. At this point depending on the findings of the MRI, surgery may be discussed with your provider,” explains Dr. Sutphen. The surgical options include arthroscopy and possible realignment of the patella.

Getting back into gear

Take precaution as the injury heals. Be sure to consult your doctor for clearance to exercise. If you are looking to ease back into your routine after injury, knowing your running technique can help. Attend one of our IBJI Running Clinics to assess your running technique, minimize the risk of injury, improve your running performance, and safely return to running after an injury or running hiatus. IBJI physicians and physical therapy staff will be there to assess:

When accidents do happen, seek treatment. If you believe you have symptoms of runner’s knee, ensure the best possible outcome by making an appointment now with board-certified orthopedic knee physicians at IBJI. If you need immediate assistance for your injury, visit one of our OrthoAccess immediate care locations. 

*This information is not intended to provide advice or treatment for a specific situation. Consult your physician and medical team for information and treatment plans on your specific condition(s).