Runner's Knee: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment - Atletikka
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runners knee

Runner’s Knee: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


Does pain when walking, running, squatting, sitting down, or standing up ring a bell? You might be experiencing a condition known as ‘Runners Knee’. This is a condition affecting thousands of people, and not only runners. This means, you are not alone. Also, contrary to popular belief, this is not a specific injury. ‘Runners knee’ can be a broad term that refers to pain in the knee coming from a number of knee issues. We bring you a quick guide to help you understand the condition, symptoms, treatments, and how to prevent it.

Commonly known as ‘Runners Knee’, but many doctors will also refer to this condition as patellofemoral pain syndrome


The causes for Runners knee are broad. The most common are:

  • Trauma. This is a direct hit to the knee that will consequently cause pain.
  • Overuse. Routines that progressively bring stress to the knee, and sometimes we are not aware of it. Downhill running, excessive stair use (if you think that using the stairs everyday to the office is a good idea, think twice), bending of knees again and again, too much high-stress exercises (lunges and plyometrics).
  • Overuse will lead to Chondromalacia patella. When the cartilage under your kneecap irritates and breaks down causing pain behind the kneecap.
  • Bone Misalignment. Any bone out of position from the hips to the foot will cause the kneecap to not function properly, this will bring additional stress and irritation to the knee.
  • Weak muscles. One of the most important factors for healthy knees. If muscles surrounding the knee (quadriceps and hamstring) are not in good shape, the knee will absorb additional impact when walking/running, and the kneecap will not completely align when bending or stretching, that will ultimately end up hurting the knee.
  • Conditions in your feet. Overpronation and underpronation will bring additional stress to the knee if not properly treated.
  • Chondromalacia patella, a condition in which the cartilage under your kneecap breaks down.
  • Using the wrong shoes in recurrently uneven surfaces. Are you taking your run to the limit by running in uneven surfaces? Trail running, sand running, etc, sometimes is not a good idea, in particular if your knees are not in good condition. Also, are you using shoes out of mileage? Make sure to understand When is time to change running shoes. This can be a determining factor.

How do you know if you have Runners Knee? If you feel pain (and grinding) in your kneecap or around it when walking, running, bending. Some swelling can also happen after stressful routines.


If the condition is present and is getting worse everyday you need to make a stop. Apply RICE for some days and focus on reducing pain and inflammation (if present):

  • Rest your knee as much as possible and avoid exercise or any stressful activity for some days.
  • Ice your knee to manage inflammation in case is present. Apply it for 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours for 2-3 days.
  • Compression. You can use a neoprene compression wrap, or an elastic bandage. Compression helps to manage swelling and stability. We recommend neoprene support sleeve for daily use. Its lightweight and comfort makes it perfect to use everyday.
  • Elevation. Use a pillow when you sit or lie down.
  • Anti-inflammatories. Thinking on taking NSAIDs? like ibuprofen or naproxen?. These drugs help with pain and swelling but they will have side effects in the long term (risk of bleeding and ulcers). Use instead natural anti-inflammatories such as Turmeric, Bromelain, Ginger. They will naturally help with inflammation.
  • After pain has been controlled start progressively with stretching and strengthening exercises. Attack quads and hamstring muscles. Check these routines that can help. You need to start mildly and progress as your knee allows you to.
  • Try cushioning insoles on your shoes. They may help with additional cushioning and positioning of your feet.
  • Try a pain relief cream. This can also help in reducing Pain, Discomfort, Tingling or Numbness. Although there are several well known products in the market such as Bengay, Aspercreme, Icy Hot, we strongly recommend PENETREX. This one delivers ingredients such as Arnica, Glucosamine, MSM (DMSO2), Choline, Boswellia Serrata, Vitamin B6 and others, deep into the affected area.
  • If you try the above and your knee still hurts, ask your doctor if you need to see a specialist, like an orthopedic surgeon. It’s rare, but you may need surgery as last recourse in cases of severe runners knee. An orthopedic surgeon can remove or replace damaged cartilage and, in extreme cases, correct the position of your kneecap to send stress through the joint more evenly.


3 Signs Your Knee Is Getting Better

Sometimes anxiety plays against you. But the more time you give to the knee so it can heal properly the higher is the probability of recovery. Recovery will also depend on the severity of the injury.

When recovering, some exercises such as static lunges, and isometric (straight leg raises) can help.

The best medicine is patience. Time will help you heal better. Returning to exercise before your knee is healed, will make things worse. These are Three signs your knee is getting better:

  • There is no pain when fully bending and straightening your knee
  • There is no pain when walking, jogging, running, or jumping
  • You can tell that you feel your knee the same as your non-injured knee.


Prevention: The best a runner can do

Prevention is the best medicine for runner’s knee

Don’t wait for an injury to occur but instead work proactively to prevent them, this is your best medicine. This will ultimately improve your overall functioning and will allow you enjoy life even more, not only in running. 

  • Muscle Strengthening is key for healthy knees. Include a weekly routine at the gym with an overall focus on thighs. Strong quads, hamstrings, and hips will help minimize stress in the knee.
  • Use the right shoes. If needed, you can add additional cushioning with insoles. Make sure to replace shoes at the right time.
  • Try not to run on hard surfaces, like concrete, or uneven surfaces such as trail running.
  • Warm up before you work out.
  • Don’t make sudden workout changes like adding squats or lunges. Add intense moves slowly.
  • Wear compression. It always help.
  • Wear quality highly cushioned running shoes.
  • Replace your running shoes well before they are completely worn. Read When Is Time for New Running Shoes.


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