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Understanding Runner’s Knee


Understanding Runner’s Knee

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Runner’s knee is a term used for what can be several issues with the knee. If you experience pain around the patella, or kneecap, you may receive a diagnosis of runner’s knee. Some of the conditions covered under this diagnosis include iliotibial band syndrome, chondromalacia patella, and anterior knee pain syndrome.


The most common symptom of runner’s knee is an ache behind or around the kneecap. The pain may be particularly acute where the kneecap joins the thigh. You may feel pain in the area constantly or only during particular activities. The pain may become worse when squatting, walking up or downstairs or after sitting for an extended period. You may also experience swelling in the knee.


The condition is called runner’s knee for a reason. The repetitive stress from running can lead to the condition. Running is not the only thing that can cause runner’s knee. Any repetitive activity that puts stress on the knee, including soccer, cycling, and even walking can lead to runner’s knee.


Runner’s knee is treated in the same way as other overuse injuries. The first recommendation is RICE, or rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Rest is self-explanatory, stop performing the activity that led to the development of runner’s knee. This gives the area a chance to heal.

Use ice to ease pain and reduce swelling in the area. You can apply ice to the affected area for up to 30 minutes at a time, several times a day. Never use heat on runner’s knee. The heat can increase inflammation in the area.

Use an elastic bandage or supportive sleeve for compression. This will prevent further swelling in the affected area. Finally, elevate your knee with a pillow. Elevation also reduces swelling in the area. If your knee is very swollen, elevate the knee and lower leg so they are higher than the heart. In addition to RICE, you can treat the pain associated with runner’s knee with over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories or acetaminophen.

This care is often all that is needed for runner’s knee to resolve. In some cases, such as if the kneecap is out of alignment or the cartilage is badly damaged, surgery may be recommended. Once the pain and swelling in your knee subside your doctor may recommend physical therapy or have other recommendations for you to use to strengthen your knee. With patience and time, you should be able to resume your favorite activities.