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Common Running Injuries: Runner’s Knee

In this article we will learn about runner’s knee – what it is, how it develops, how to treat it, and how to prevent it. It’s another loosely defined injury that can become chronic.

What is Runner’s Knee?

Runner’s knee is a classic overuse injury. The term “runner’s knee” is common for several injuries resulting in minor, persistent pain in the general knee area. The medical term for runner’s knee is patellofemoral pain.

How Do You Get It?

  • Overuse. Remember, overuse injuries are sneaky. Any dramatic changes in mileage, intensity, surface, or shoe can lead to overuse. Make sure you increase everything slowly when you train.
  • Weak Muscles. This is related to overuse. If you have a muscle imbalance, this can also lead to runner’s knee by way of overuse.
  • Misaligned Kneecap. If you kneecap is out-of-place for any reason, it can wear away at the cartilage in the area, causing pain and swelling.
  • Other Injuries. People complaining of runner’s knee may have injuries in other parts of the body that are the cause, For example, if someone has a sore back. If they change their gait to compensate, they may develop runner’s knee. Or, they may have referred pain from another injury.
  • Foot Problems. People who have flat feed and tend to overpronate are at risk for runner’s knee.


The classic symptom of runner’s knee usually is described by some sort of “pain behind the kneecap”. When I had it, it felt like something I described as a “mild, persistent discomfort and unexplainable weakness”. It didn’t really hurt like you would expect an injury, but I could tell something wasn’t right. Some people also complain of pain when bending the knee or pain when running downhill. Severe cases can have visible swelling and a grinding noise associated to it.

Treating and Preventing

Runner’s knee is a condition that is easy to treat.

  1. Stop Training. Sit down. Stop training.
  2. Ice your shins! You need to ice your knee to prevent or reduce swelling. This will help alleviate the pain and give your body a chance to heal.  Don’t ice for more than 20 minutes at a time. Repeat a few times per day.
  3. Compression. Use athletic tape or an elastic bandage to apply compression to your knee joint. This will provide stability and help keep swelling down.
  4. Elevation. Prop your leg up on a pillow while you are lying down. this encourages healing.
  5. Take medicine – Take ibuprofen to reduce swelling. If you need an NSAID, see a doctor.

Here’s how you prevent runner’s knee:

  1. Learn proper running form. Proper running form can help you avoid runner’s knee and a multitude of other repetitive stress induced running injuries.
  2. Strengthen your quadriceps. Weak muscles or muscles imbalances make it very easy to overuse your quads, leading to the injury.
  3. Be Careful. If you are worried about your knees, be careful before doing any extremely strenuous activity.
  4. Increase your training slowly.  Moderation is the key to preventing overuse injuries.
  5. Warm up before you run and stretch afterwards. Warm up before your run to loosen your muscles. Stretch afterward to improve your flexibility without injuring yourself.

Don’t let runner’s knee keep you on the sidelines. Now you know what to look for. Work on your running form so you can run whenever you want, wherever you want, without fear of injury.

This is a post in a series of articles about common running injuries. These articles are purposely broad and intended for your education. Do not use this information as a substitute for doctor’s advice or a professional medical opinion. To see the entire series, click here.
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March 6th, 2012
Written By: Brett

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