Runner’s knee, also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, is a common cause of knee pain that we evaluate and treat at Sterling Ridge Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.

As the name states, “runner’s knee” is a common condition seen in runners and multi-sport athletes. Unfortunately, it can be quite debilitating to a runner due to pain and limitation in knee function.  It’s imperative that a patient with runner’s knee be treated well to ensure a timely return to their sport and training.

Runner’s knee is a condition where the cartilage of the patella (kneecap) becomes soft and sometimes injured. It is commonly caused by overuse in training. It can be caused by one or more of the following conditions:

  • Repeated bending of the knee can irritate cartilage and nerves of the patella.
  • Knee malalignment – this occurs when the patella does not tract properly or is tilted. Physical stress will not be evenly distributed throughout the knee. This can cause pain and damage to the joint
  • Flat feet, also known as overpronation. Flat feet is a condition in which the impact of a step causes the arches of your foot to collapse, stretching the muscles and tendons.

Runners knee will often cause symptoms of pain behind or around the knee cap – most often when the knee bends during running, kneeling, lunging, climbing and walking down stairs.

The diagnosis is commonly made by a patient’s symptoms and physical examination. At times, an MRI will be ordered to assess for other causes of knee pain as well as assess the severity of cartilage injury under the patella.  MRI findings will help determine recommendations of treatment.

Treatment for runner’s knee does not usually involve surgery.  For mild to moderate cases, formal physical therapy, proper shoe wear, stretching, anti-inflammatories, icing and temporary cross training are the mainstays of treatment.

Formal Physical Therapy: Critical to proper treatment and return to peek performance is formal physical therapy. Well trained sports physical therapists are able to properly condition certain thigh and hip muscles to help the dynamic stabilization or the patella with knee bending. Also, physical therapists are able to advise on appropriate home exercise programs to help prevent re-injury.

Shoewear: This is critical for any avid runner or multisport athlete. Most running shoe stores now have personnel to evaluate your feet to help recommend a proper fitting shoe based on your anatomy.

Knee Icing: Icing for 20-30 minutes every 2 hours 2-3 times a day will help decrease knee inflammation, pain, swelling and improve knee function.

Severe cases of runner’s knee that weren’t fixed through conservative treatment may require arthroscopic surgery.  One of our sports orthopedic surgeons will review the options including arthroscopic management of cartilage injury and correcting the position of the kneecap so that the stress is evenly distributed. We have refined our techniques of arthroscopic surgery to perform most knee procedures through two small one centimeter skin incisions.

For more questions, please feel free to contact our office to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic surgeons.

Happy and Safe Training!

Dr. Johnson