Runner’s knee or Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is a condition where the cartilage under the knee cap begins to wear away. Running can cause irritation where the kneecap rests on thighbone, which causes pain. The pain can be sharp or a dull ache that does not go away.
Runner’s knee can result from a biomechanical issue or from weak quadriceps and tight hamstrings. Some common biomechanical issues are flat feet, high arches in the feet, size and placement of the patella and worn cartilage. Weak quadriceps can cause alignment issues, while tight hamstrings and calves can put pressure on the knee. Also, the repetitive, jarring motion of running can often be enough to cause runner’s knee.
Symptoms of runner’s knee include pain behind or around the patella. Pain may also be felt toward the back of the knee. Some report a feeling of the knee ‘giving out’ and others have cracking in the knee.
Runner’s knee is more common in women due to the q-angle (see previous post on q-angle) – wider hips, which results in a larger angle of the thighbone to the knee, putting more pressure on the kneecap. It is also a condition that tends to strike younger athletes.
Run on softer surfaces and make sure you are wearing the correct shoes. Local specialty running stores can be a great resource to see that you are fitted properly. Orthotics can also be helpful in the prevention of runner’s knee.
Strength training is another great way to prevent runner’s knee. Focus on strengthening the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. By doing this, you will reduce pressure on your knees. Also, remember to stretch the hamstrings and calves as this will also help with prevention.
If pain occurs, cut back on your running and avoid activities that involve extensive knee bending. Giving the knee a rest is the best way to begin to heal. If the pain persists, see a doctor.