Runner’s Knee: Causes, Symptoms, and Strategies To Help

Runner’s Knee: Causes, Symptoms, and Strategies To Help

For those who love the rhythmic cadence of their feet on the pavement, the wind brushing past, and the exhilarating rush of a good run, nothing can halt the momentum quite like pain. One of the most common culprits behind this discomfort is ‘Runner’s Knee’, a term frequently bandied about in running communities. But what exactly is Runner’s Knee, why does it happen, and most importantly, how can we prevent or recover from it? Dive in as we dissect this common ailment, offering insights and solutions for every avid runner.

What Does Runner’s Knee Define?

What Does Runner's Knee Define?“Runner’s Knee” is a colloquial term that primarily denotes patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). It describes discomfort located around or behind the kneecap (patella). Although the name suggests an exclusive association with runners, this ailment can affect various athletes and even individuals not engaged in sports. The condition arises due to various reasons.

The defining characteristic of Runner’s Knee is a dull, aching pain in the knee region. Particularly around the patella. This pain can intensify during specific activities like running, squatting, kneeling, or ascending and descending stairs. Despite its potentially debilitating nature, with appropriate management, many individuals recover from Runner’s Knee, emphasizing the need for timely intervention and care.

What Are The Possible Causes?

Runner’s Knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), can arise from a combination of factors. The exact cause might vary from one person to another. But here are some of the most common potential causes:

  • Malalignment of the Kneecap

An improperly aligned patella might not glide smoothly over the lower end of the thigh bone (femur). Eventually, leading to wear and tear and consequently causing pain.

  • Muscle Imbalances or Weakness

Weak or imbalanced quadriceps can place undue stress on the knee joint. Similarly, weak or tight hip muscles can affect the knee’s alignment and movement.

  • Flat Feet or Overpronation

This can increase the stress placed on the knee joint during activities like running or walking, potentially leading to pain.

  • Repetitive Stress

Constant and repeated stress on the knee, such as from running, especially on hard surfaces or uneven terrain, can lead to PFPS.

  • Direct Trauma

A blow or impact to the kneecap, such as from a fall or accident, can lead to symptoms of Runner’s Knee.

  • Chondromalacia Patella

This is the softening and breakdown of the cartilage on the underside of the patella. And, leading to pain and sometimes a grinding sensation.

  • Insufficient Stretching or Warm-Up

Not warming up adequately before engaging in physical activities can make the knee more prone to injury.

  • Improper Footwear

Wearing shoes that don’t support the foot’s arch or don’t absorb shock adequately can contribute to the onset or exacerbation of Runner’s Knee.

It’s important to remember that the cause of Runner’s Knee is often multifactorial. This means that a combination of the above factors might be at play in a given individual. As always, consulting with a healthcare professional can help determine the specific cause and appropriate treatment.

Is Runners Knee Really Painful?

Is Runners Knee Really Painful?Yes, “Runner’s Knee” can be quite painful for those who experience it. The severity and duration of the pain can vary among individuals. For some, the pain might be a mild irritant that emerges after long runs, while for others, it might be a persistent and intense discomfort that arises even with minimal activity.

Notably, the pain’s intensity doesn’t always correlate with the degree of tissue damage. As some might experience severe pain without significant anatomical abnormalities and vice versa. Regardless of its severity, the pain from Runner’s Knee underscores the importance of proper knee care. And the need to address any underlying issues contributing to the condition.

How To Treat Runner’s Knee?

The main goal of the treatment is to alleviate pain, promote healing, and address any underlying causes or risk factors to prevent recurrence. Here are some commonly recommended treatments and interventions:

  1. Rest and Activity Modification: It’s crucial to give the affected knee a break from activities that exacerbate the pain, such as running, jumping, or squatting. This doesn’t mean complete inactivity, but rather shifting to low-impact exercises like swimming or cycling.
  2. Ice: Applying ice to the knee can help reduce pain and inflammation. It’s recommended to apply ice for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day, especially after activity.
  3. Compression and Elevation: Wearing a compression bandage can provide support and reduce swelling while elevating the knee can also help minimize inflammation.
  4. Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can be taken to reduce pain and inflammation. But it’s essential to use them as directed and consider potential side effects.
  5. Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can provide exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee, especially the quadriceps and hips. They can also recommend stretches to improve flexibility and possibly manual techniques to improve kneecap alignment.
  6. Orthotics: For individuals with flat feet or overpronation, custom orthotics or supportive insoles can help distribute pressure more evenly during walking or running, reducing strain on the knee.
  7. Surgery: In rare cases, when conservative treatments don’t bring relief and there’s a clear structural problem, surgical interventions might be considered.

It’s important to remember that recovery from Runner’s Knee can be a gradual process. And consistency in treatment is key. Furthermore, even after symptoms have resolved, continuing with strength and flexibility exercises can help prevent the recurrence of the condition.

Can I Squat With Runner’s Knee?

Yes, but with caution. Squatting with Runner’s Knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome) can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, squats can help strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee, such as the quadriceps. That can provide better support and reduce knee pain over time. Properly executed squats, especially under the guidance of a physical therapist or fitness professional, can be part of a rehabilitation program.

However, if done incorrectly or if the knee pain is severe, squatting can exacerbate the symptoms. It’s essential to pay attention to form and depth and to avoid going too deep if it causes pain. Initially, shallow or partial squats may be more suitable. If any movement causes pain or discomfort, it’s crucial to stop and reassess.

What Exercises Fix Runner’s Knee?

What Exercises Fix Runner's Knee?To address and prevent Runner’s Knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome), a combination of strengthening and flexibility exercises targeting the muscles around the knee and hip is essential. These exercises can help improve muscular imbalances, enhance stability, and ensure proper tracking of the patella.

Here are some effective exercises:

Strengthening Exercises

1. Straight Leg Raises:

  • Lie on your back with one leg straight and the other bent.
  • Tighten the thigh muscle of the straight leg and raise it to the height of the other knee.
  • Hold for a couple of seconds, then lower. Repeat for multiple reps.

2. Clamshells:

  • Lie on your side with your legs stacked and bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Keeping feet touching, lift the top knee as high as you can without moving your pelvis.
  • Lower it down slowly. Repeat for multiple reps.

3. Bridges:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
  • Lift your hips towards the ceiling by squeezing your glutes and pressing through your heels.
  • Hold at the top briefly, then lower. Repeat.

4. Hip Abduction:

  • Stand straight and lift one leg out to the side without tilting your torso.
  • Lower it down slowly.
  • Repeat for multiple reps.

5. Wall Sits:

  • Stand against a wall and slide down into a squat position, ensuring your knees are above your ankles.
  • Hold for several seconds, then slide back up.

6. Step-Ups:

Using a step or low bench, step up and down, focusing on using your thigh muscles.

Flexibility and Mobility Exercises

  1. Quadriceps Stretch: While standing, pull one heel towards your buttocks and hold the ankle. Keep your knees together and push your hips forward for a deeper stretch.
  2. Hamstring Stretch: Sit on the ground with one leg extended and the other bent, foot touching the inner thigh of the straight leg. Lean forward to feel a stretch in the back of the extended leg.
  3. Calf Stretch: Place your hands on a wall, and extend one leg back, keeping the heel on the ground. Bend the other knee slightly and press back through the extended heel.
  4. IT Band Stretch: Cross one leg behind the other while standing. Lean to the side of the back leg until you feel a stretch on the outer hip and thigh.
  5. Foam Rolling: Using a foam roller, gently roll over tight muscles, especially the quadriceps, hamstrings, and IT band. This can help release muscle tightness and improve flexibility.

Always ensure you warm up before starting these exercises and cool down afterward. It’s essential to maintain proper form to prevent further injury or strain. If any exercise exacerbates pain, it’s advisable to stop and consult with a physical therapist or healthcare professional.


In the realm of running and various athletic endeavors, Runner’s Knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome, stands as a common ailment that can hinder performance and daily life. However, with a comprehensive understanding of its causes, and treatments, individuals can navigate this condition more effectively. By integrating preventative measures, and being attentive to one’s body, it’s entirely possible to mitigate the pain and return to an active, pain-free lifestyle.

Remember, while at-home remedies and exercises play a pivotal role, consulting with healthcare professionals ensures a tailored and effective approach to rehabilitation. If you’re experiencing Knee pain, physical therapy for knee pain at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.