Fixing a Runners Knee

If you are a runner, odds are you have experienced a “runners knee”.  Patellofemoral pain syndrome, or runners knee, is caused by stress on the knee.  While it is nicknamed “runners” knee, it is an injury that can happen to any athlete who uses the knees frequently.

Patellofemoral pain is a fancy way to say kneecap pain.  The kneecap is a bone that is located within the tendon that connects the quadriceps to the tibia.  The kneecaps function is to improve the forces that run through the tendon and to protect the tendon from wear and tear.  When a kneecap is properly aligned, it slides in a groove on the end of the femur as the knee bends.  Pain in this area occurs when the kneecap is not properly aligned.


If you have runners knee, you could feel

*irritation where the kneecap rests on the thighbone

*tenderness behind or around the patella

*pain in the back of your knee

*a sense of cracking as you move your knee

*feeling like your knee is “giving out”

The pain may feel worse as you walk downstairs or down hill.  It can feel sharp and short lived or dull and chronic and it may appear while you are running and then disappear when you stop.


Interesting fact:  Runner’s knee strikes mostly younger, recreational runners and twice as many women as men.  Women tend to have wider hips, resulting in a greater angling of the thighbone to the knee, which puts the kneecap under more stress.


Pinpointing what causes runners knee is difficult because every person is different.  It could be a biomechanical problem, like the patella being larger on the outside then the inside, your knee may dislocate easily, you may have worn cartilage, a high arch in your foot provides less cushioning, or flat feet will turn your knees out excessively.   While options are limited when it is a problem like these, it can more often be traced back to poorly conditioned quadriceps and tight hamstrings and calves, which is totally fixable!



To prevent runner knee

*Run on softer surfaces

*Keep mileage increases to less than 10 percent a week

*Gradually increase hill work into your program

*Make sure you are wearing the proper shoes for your foot type (you may need to visit a specialty shop for help with this)

*You can also work to strengthen your quadriceps and stretch your hamstrings and calves.



*When you first start to feel pain, cut back your mileage and try to avoid excessive knee use.  The sooner you lessen the stress on the knee, the faster you can recover.   Try another form of exercise that is less stressful on your knee for a little bit, like swimming, jogging in water, elliptical machine, or cycling.

*Ice your knee to ease the pain.  Ice the area for 20-30 min every 3-4 hours for 2-3 days, or until the pain is gone.

*Give your knee extra support by wrapping it up in an elastic bandage or sleeve.

*Elevate your leg on a pillow anytime you sit or lay down.

*Strengthen your quads and stretch your hamstrings and calves.

*Check our arch supports or orthotic inserts if your feet are the problem

If pain persists, see a doctor.

Remember to be patient and let your body heal or you may incur more permanent damage.  Return to your normal workout routine when you can bend your knee without pain, you feel no pain when you walk, run or jump, or your knee feels as strong as your uninjured knee.


As you work to strengthen your knee, you want to work your quads, as well as your hips, glutes, core muscles, and arms.  The body works as one unit, and if one part is off, a chain reaction occurs.  It is important to strengthen and stretch all parts of the runner’s kinetic chain.  Here are some lower leg strength moves you can do.


*Jump squat


*Walking lunge


*Low side to side lunge


*Mountain climbers


*Straight leg raise on back


*Bum kicks


*Wall sit


*Calf raises


*Box step up


*Side Laying Leg Raises


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