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Runner's Knee Guide for Patients: Causes, Prevention and Treatment

What is Runner's Knee and What Causes Pain?

Runner's knee is also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome. Runner's knee got its name because the syndrome is common for runners. People experience runner's knee when their kneecap causes friction against the bottom of their thigh bone. Runner's knee occurs when the cartilage has been eroded and irritation is present.

runner's knee - knee pain

Trauma to the kneecap, misalignment of the kneecap, flat feet, weak or tight thigh muscles, arthritis, a fractured kneecap, overuse of the knee or complete or partial dislocation of the kneecap can cause runner's knee. Plica syndrome or synovial plica syndrome can also cause runner's knee. The syndrome causes the lining of the joint to become thickened and inflamed.

The pain of runner's knee is caused by worn or torn cartilage, strained tendons or the irritation of the soft tissues or lining of the knee.

What Are the Symptoms of Runner's Knee?

People who have runner's knee will have knee pain. Many people will describe it as a dull, aching pain around or behind their kneecap. People may feel pain when they're walking, kneeling, running, sitting for a long time with their knee bent, squatting, sitting down or standing up and climbing and descending stairs. Some people may experience swelling and popping or grinding in their knees.

How to Relieve Runner's Knee Pain

Stretching and Foam Rolling

Stretching and foam rolling are great exercises to perform as they strengthen the knee and loosen tight calves and quads. Be careful and cautious while performing stretches as it can further irritate the injured knee.

Medical Tape

Applying medical tape is another great way to get temporary relief from runner's knee. The medical tape that you apply should be rigid athletic tape or kinesiology tape. Applying medical tape to the injured knee has been proven to be effective. It's been shown that medical tape provides temporary relief from runner's knee pain in professional athletes.

Research has shown that medical tape is the best option for temporary relief from runner's knee. Applying the tape loosely or tightly doesn't matter because loose taping provides just as much relief as tight taping.Flexible kinesiology tape is recommended, and it's the best option. Kinesiology tape stays on longer, and it's less likely to irritate skin.

Knee Braces

Research has shown that knee braces can provide temporary relief for people who are suffering from runner's knee.

Other Options

Doing hip and quadriceps strengthening exercises each day can also help you to get temporary relief. It's important to complete exercises slowly, and only complete one set of 15 each day until the strength in these areas increases. When the strength in these areas improves, people who have runner's knee can complete two or three sets of 15 each day.

It's important that people who have runner's knee complete strengthening exercises for their lower legs and improve their balance. Glute bridges are an excellent exercise to do to increase lower leg strength and improve balance.

This article provides information on exercise for runner's knee pain.

Lastly, it's advised to put ice on the injury after every session of running or jogging.

Treatment Options

Physiotherapy is one treatment option for people who have runner's knee. Many people who have runner's knee respond well to physiotherapy treatment. A physiotherapist will complete a physical assessment to determine how to correct the injury.


runner's knee physiotherapy

Massage therapy is another treatment option for people who are suffering from runner's knee. A qualified massage therapist should have a variety of tools and techniques to help the injury heal. Trigger point therapy, kneading, longitudinal gliding, myofascial release, a compression massage, deep transverse frictions, a Swedish massage and cross-fiber massages help heal runner's knee.

How Long Does It Take for Runner's Knee to Heal?

For the injury to heal faster, most treatment plans recommend avoiding running until the injury heals.

Four to six weeks of exercising are necessary for the injury to heal. Usually, it'll take four to six weeks for the injury to heal, but it may take longer. A doctor or physical therapist should be able to give an accurate estimate on how long it'll take for the injury to heal.

How to Protect Your Knees While Running

Wearing proper shoes, stretching, cross training, eating healthy and taking supplements are the best way to protect your knees while running. It's important to avoid overusing the knee as well.

Wearing the right shoes is the most important step people can take to avoid runner's knee. It's important that they first find shoes that fit their feet correctly. Many running shoes don't have proper support to prevent runner's knee. Always be sure to remove the inserts or insoles that came with the shoes and purchase new ones that offer better support.

Another important step people can take to protect their knees while running is to stretch before they begin running or jogging. Stretching not only prevents runner's knee, but it also prevents other injuries.

Many people who run for exercise only focus on running. It's important to cross train. Consistently repeating the same exercise throws the body out of balance. Be sure to add core-strengthening exercises to your routine.

People who run need a variety of supplements and healthy foods to protect their knees while running or jogging. People who run need to maintain healthy joints to prevent injuries. Adults should be getting 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium each day. People who prefer to eat their calcium have the option of choosing dark green vegetables and dairy products. People who run should be taking 1,500 milligrams per day of glucosamine and 1,200 milligrams a day of chondroitin sulfate.

How We Can Help You

Many people need to participate in a dedicated strength training program to get permanent relief from runner's knee, and we can help you with that. Many people who experience runner's knee have come to us for help, and we've always been able to help them. Our physiotherapists at Square One Physio in Mississauga can help you get back to the running track again.

Click here to book an appointment.

Related article: Do your knees make a clicking sound when you do squats and lunges?