Learn more about Runner’s Knee and how LA Orthopedic Group can manage your symptoms.
Runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome) is the general term for irritation where the kneecap and thighbone meet. While so-named because it’s common among runners, runner’s knee may affect anyone who experiences some degree of pain around the kneecap (patella) from movements that require the knee to repeatedly bend.
- Potential causes include tight hamstrings and deteriorating cartilage
- Treatment options depend on source and nature of the pain
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What Causes Runner’s Knee
Any activity or exercise that places a lot of repeated stress on the knee can be a potential cause of runner’s knee, including intense exercises like “jump training,” or plyometrics, and lunges. Other causes or contributing factors may include a hard fall or direct blow to the knee, misalignment of any of the bones from the hips to the knees, and unbalanced thigh muscles. Even problems with feet such as flat feet (fallen arches) or excessively rolling the foot inwards while walking (over-pronation) can contribute to patellofemoral pain syndrome.
The first noticeable symptom of runner’s knee for most people is pain around the kneecap or discomfort felt anytime the knee is bent, as when exercising, bending, or going from a standing to a sitting position. Additional symptoms sometimes include:
- Pain felt when walking downwards (steps, hills)
- Feeling like a knee is going to give out
- Tenderness around the kneecap
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis often combines a physical exam with image tests. An arthroscopy may be done to take a better look inside the knee. It’s a procedure that involves the use of a small instruments and a camera that allows an orthopedic surgeon to explore the knee in more detail to determine the extent of the damage.
Initial treatment often involves resting the affected knee and avoiding strenuous activities or exercises. Applying ice to the area where pain is felt for about 15-20 minutes at a time for 3-4 days may provide relief, as may wrapping the knee with an elastic bandage and elevating it while lying down or sitting.
If additional treatments such as the use arch supports, stretching exercises, taking NSAIDs like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, or receiving corticosteroid injections directly into the affected part of the knee aren’t easing pain, some type of knee surgery may be recommended. Procedures may involve replacing or removing damaged cartilage or placing the kneecap back into the correct position if this is the reason for the discomfort being experienced.
Doing leg stretches can keep muscles that directly or indirectly support your kneecap strong. Pay particular attention to quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. If you are a competitive runner, gradually increase mileage and invest in quality, supportive running shoes. Also, try to run, walk, or jog on smooth, even surfaces as much as possible and take a break from more strenuous activities if you do experience sudden or persistent knee pain. See your doctor