Runner's Knee: Symptoms and Solutions

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If you have knee joint pain, particularly in the knee cap area, when you walk down the stairs, when you are running, or when you are simply walking, it's a very uncomfortable sensation.  If it hurts a lot when you push your kneecap toward the bone behind it, yet it doesn't hurt when you are bicycling, chances are you have a condition called Runner's Knee.

Traditionally, this painful condition has been related to long-distance running.  However, anyone, not just runners, who engages in activities that place undue stress on the front of the knee joint ("patellofemoral") can develop Runner's Knee. The scientific term for it is "chondromalacia patella", or "patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS)".

Another way to describe Runner's Knee is as follows: as you run, the knee cap moves up and down, not side to side. If the kneecap moves from side to side, then the back of the kneecap will rub against the front bottom of the femur (the long bone of the upper leg), resulting in pain.  Runner's knee actually involves more than just the kneecap.  The quadriceps tendon, patellar tendon, and the associated soft tissues that are critical to extension of the knee are also involved.

You can keep the knee cap from rubbing painfully against the femur by wearing orthotics. These are special inserts that can be customized by a podiatrist for your shoes to reconstitute the arch and alleviate knee joint pain.  You can also try doing exercises that will strengthen the muscle that pulls your knee cap inward.

Here are other specific recommendations to relieve Runner's Knee:

- First, for immediate relief, apply ice and/or use anti-inflammatory medications to relieve the pain in the front of the knee.

- Second, stop doing any of the activities that may cause knee joint pain, such as running or jumping.

- Third, try not to run down steep steps or stairs, steep roads, hills, etc., that will increase pressure on the kneecap and cause more pain.

- Fourth, try taping the kneecap or use a stabilizing knee brace (a wide variety of knee braces is found on my website). Knee braces are extremely useful in setting proper stability of the kneecap.

Once the knee is pain-free, physical therapy which works to rehabilitate the knee and strengthen the quadriceps and vastus medialis muscle may be useful. But if you decide to go for physical therapy, make sure you avoid exercises that are done with your knee bent. These exercises will increase the pressure beneath the kneecap and cause more harm than good.

If the above recommendations are followed and the knee joint pain around the kneecap persists, then surgery might be in order.  Arthroscopic ("minimally invasive" camera-based) surgery is one option.  It can manage the softening or damage of the articular cartilage of the kneecap and thigh bone. Sometimes, if there is accompanying instability of the knee cap, Osteotomy, or re-alignment of the leg or soft tissue reconstructive procedures may be required to relieve abnormally high pressures between the kneecap and femur.

As always, don't panic and try the least invasive recommendations first. If, after a prolonged period of time, the knee joint pain persists and Runner's Knee stubbornly remains, then don't hesitate to seek professional advice.  Much more information concerning knee issues is available on our website, for your information and reference.

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Adam Gleason has 1 articles online

Learn the causes of knee joint pain and find tips on how to overcome the challenges associated with pain in knee joint - at

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Runner's Knee: Symptoms and Solutions

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This article was published on 2011/05/19