As many runners or walkers increase their mileage after a period of inactivity or starting a new program, injuries start to pop up, and Runner’s Knee is one of the most common.

Runner’s Knee, one of the more common injuries, is defined as a softening or wearing away and cracking of the cartilage under the kneecap, resulting in pain and inflammation. The cartilage becomes like sandpaper because the kneecap is not riding smoothly over the knee. I have felt this sensation as my wife suffered from runners knee for a while and you can actually even hear it as the knee is bent.

What Causes Runner’s Knee?

  • Overpronation (feet rotate too far inward on impact) can cause the kneecap to twist sideways.
  • Fatigued or weak quadriceps muscle. The quadriceps muscle assists in the proper tracking of the kneecap.
  • Weakness, especially of the inside part of the quadriceps, can prevent the kneecap from tracking smoothly.
  • Muscle imbalance between weak quadriceps and tight hamstring and iliotibial band (ITB), muscles can also affect proper tracking.
  • Hill running (especially down hills) and running on cambered (angled surfaces such as the side of the road);
  • Overtraining

Self-Treatment Options for Runner’s Knee

According to David Jenkinson, D.O., the best course of action is to stop running. Take a course (5 – 7 days) of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen available from your general practitioner or pharmacist. Apply ice to the knee – for 10 minutes every 2 hours, in order to reduce the inflammation. Avoid weight-bearing activities and keep foot elevated where possible Strengthen the quadriceps muscle only when pain-free.

Exercises include:

  • Place pillow under knee, tighten quadriceps, push knee down into pillow and lift foot up 20 times.
  • Repeat exercise as above with foot turned out in order to strengthen the inside of the quadriceps muscle. Repeat ×20.
  • Stretch your quadriceps, hamstring, iliotibial band (ITB), and gluteal muscles, and return to running gradually. Full recovery is usually between 4-6 weeks.

Medical Treatment for Runner’s Knee

If injury doesn’t respond to self-treatment in two weeks, see an orthotist or podiatrist for custom-made orthotics to control overpronation, or an orthopedic surgeon. Surgery to scrape away rough edges of cartilage may alleviate some pain. Cortisone injections are ineffective.

Preventative Measures

Stretching your quadriceps, hamstring, iliotibial band (ITB), and gluteal muscles. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds, then relax slowly. Repeat stretches 2 – 3 times per day. Remember to stretch well before and after running, build your quadriceps, hamstring and calf muscles, and wear the correct shoes (specifically stability or motion-control shoes and orthotics to correct overpronation). The staff at PRO BIKE+RUN can help with a biomechanical assessment of and selection of the best shoe for you.

The information contained here is merely that, informational. PRO BIKE+RUN makes no guarantees as to the effectiveness of the treatments stated above. We advise you to seek treatment by a medical professional to truly diagnosis and/or treat any injury or condition.