What is Runner’s Knee? Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

If your knee hurts

You may have just started jogging and notice a dull ache in your knee. Or maybe you’ve clocked a lot of hours on your bike and it seems like you can’t get rid of the pain around your knee. Like many active people, you may have a runner’s knee.

Runner’s knee is one of the most common injuries in active individuals. According to a report in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Knee problems, including runner’s knee, are more common in women than men, according to a 2019 study in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine.

Here’s the scoop on the causes, symptoms, and treatments of runner’s knee, as well as how it’s diagnosed and what you can do to prevent it.

What is a runner’s knee?

Runner’s knee is medically known as patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). It is a broad term that describes pain in the front of the knee and around the patella (also known as the kneecap). The patella is where the knee connects to the lower end of the thigh bone (femur).

It is often known as runner’s knee, or even jumper’s knee, as it is common in runners. But it’s commonly diagnosed in all types of athletes — and non-athletic people too.

The pain can make it difficult to run or perform athletic activities. It can also make it difficult to climb stairs, kneel, or do many daily activities.

Runner’s Knee Causes

Runner’s knee can be caused by a defect in the structure of your knee or by the way you walk or run. Some things that can cause this knee pain include:

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Runner’s Knee Symptoms

The main symptoms of runner’s knee are pain behind, in front, or on the sides of the knee.

It is usually mild at first and worsens during and after activity. You can also feel it when you sit with your knees bent for long periods, such as in a movie theater (hence the colloquial term “movie-goers knee”).

Other symptoms include:

  • Swelling in the knee
  • Popping and crackling sensation in the knee
  • Feeling of weakness in the knee
  • Knee that feels soft

How is runner’s knee diagnosed?

Your doctor will usually diagnose runner’s knee by performing a physical exam and asking about your symptoms.

During the exam, your doctor may press around your knee and on your kneecap. The doctor will also check the alignment of your kneecap and lower leg.

You may be asked to squat, jump, or lunge so your doctor can see how your knee responds. And you’ll probably have to line up so your doctor can look for any problems with your gait that could be causing problems with your knee.

In some cases, your doctor may order an X-ray or MRI to rule out other possible causes of your pain, such as osteoarthritis or a bone fracture.

Runner’s knee treatment

How you treat runner’s knee will depend on the cause and source of your pain.

Non-surgical treatments

Stop doing activities that put stress on your knee and cause your pain, such as running or cycling.

In addition to activity changes, treatments may include:

Runner’s Knee Surgery

In rare cases, surgery may be required. There are two types of surgical procedures:

Debridement: A surgeon removes pieces of damaged cartilage from the kneecap to allow the knee to move more smoothly. This is done arthroscopically, which means that a surgeon inserts a small camera into your joint and uses that camera to guide small surgical instruments.

reshuffle: The surgeon opens the knee through a traditional incision to realign the kneecap with the shin bone.

Preventing runner’s knee

There are a number of things you can do to prevent a runner’s knee. The key is not to overuse or strain your knee.

  • Warm up before physical activity.
  • Wear supportive shoes or orthotics.
  • Gradually increase activities.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Stretch after activities.

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