This is the most common injury among runners and non-runners alike. For some it is a short-term problem and others it is a life-long struggle. Runner’s Knee is usually associated with an increase in activity. This can be increased mileage, increased hills, or just over-doing it on one particular day. Pain is often worse after exercise. The pain can be felt on any side of the knee, but most often on the front. Pain is worse after getting up from rest, with sitting for a while with your knees bent or with going down stairs.
So what causes it? The answer is really in the name - Patellofemoral (meaning knee cap and thigh bone) Syndrome. It is essentially a problem with alignment. A good comparison is that of a rope in a pulley. If the rope says in the center of the pulley then everything runs smoothly, but if the rope is pulled off to the side then there can be uneven wear and fraying of the rope. The knee is just the same. There is a groove in the bottom of the thigh bone that acts like a pulley. The knee cap, its tendons, and the quadriceps muscle acts at the rope. So, if the alignment of the knee is off, then there is uneven wear under the knee cap, causing inflammation and pain.
There are a variety of things that can contribute to runner’s knee. Some of these issues cannot be changed like the bone anatomy, the tightness of ligaments, and how ‘knock-kneed’ you are. Others can be influenced like muscle strength, foot arch, and pelvic alignment.
The mainstay of initial treatment is relative rest, strengthening of the thigh and hip muscles, and anti-inflammatory medications. Other treatments of benefit are bracing, taping, and pelvic adjustment. Rarely, is surgery a considered option. So, if this sounds like something that you may be dealing with I would suggest taking a step back on you training and search the web for ‘Patellofemoral exercises’. It will take 2-4 weeks to see improvement with these exercises. If these are not helpful, pay your friendly neighborhood sports medicine doctor a visit.