Runner’s Knee (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome)

Runner’s Knee (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome)

The pain comes out nowhere as you are finishing another easy run, a sudden dull ache around your kneecap. The pain is noticeable but bearable, so you finish the run, do your post-run stretch, ice the knee, and go about your day. When you wake up the next morning you have already forgotten about the strange knee pain, until you try to take your first step out of bed. As you walk around a little the pain slowly subsides so you decide to go for a run anyways. The first mile or two is somewhat uncomfortable but as your body warms up the pain is barely noticeable. You repeat the stretch and ice routine, but a couple of hours later while getting up from your desk to grab a quick lunch you feel the knee tightness again, this time it’s much more uncomfortable.

Depending on how tough or stubborn of a runner you are, this cycle can go on for days or even weeks as the pain worsens during your run as well as throughout the day. Eventually the pain is much more intense and lasts for almost entire runs. Finally you see a doctor, who then orders an x-ray and diagnoses you with Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (more commonly known as Runner’s Knee). You’re in good company, it’s estimated that around 15-20% of runners (1 out of every 5 to 6) have suffered some form of Runner’s Knee during their running career. Let’s take a closer look:


Symptoms:

— Most commonly pain in or around your kneecap but sometimes behind as well. Most of the time it’s when you are active, but as the condition regresses there can be pain after sitting for a long time with a bent knee.

— When you bend and straighten your knee you can feel and/or hear rubbing, grinding, or clicking sound of the kneecap.


Causes:

— Structural defect with the alignment of an individual’s legs. This can occur anywhere between the hips and ankles and result in a kneecap that shifts too much to the inside or outside and places too much pressure on the kneecap. Another common cause under this category is flat feet which leads to overpronation.

— Muscular imbalances or weaknesses, especially in the quadriceps muscles that cause poor kneecap tracking.

— Sudden increase in training volume/intensity.

— Sudden introduction of new exercises that place too much pressure on the knee.


Treatment:

— Rest. Although not always necessary or possible.

— Ice. Most sources recommend icing for 15-20 minutes every 3-4 hours to help reduce swelling.

— Elevate your leg when you sit down instead of keeping it in a bent position.

— Stretching and strengthening exercises particular for the quadriceps. Foam rolling the quadriceps area to loosen it up will also alleviate symptoms.

— Worn out training shoes.

— Physical Therapy helps if all else fails if symptoms worsen.