Don't Dread Runner's Knee

runner's knee

Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee is a vague diagnosis, but is typically describing patellofemoral pain (pain behind the knee cap), which is very common in runners.  However, people who don't run regularly can still suffer from runner’s knee. Here are some common signs that you could be suffering from runner’s knee:

  • Pain in front of the knee, often described as dull or ache

  • Pain that is worse going up/down stairs

  • Pain with squatting

  • Pain during or after workouts

If you meet any of these criteria, these are the first 2 (and most obvious) things you should do:

Identify the Underlying Cause

The most important step to preventing, addressing, and resolving this issue is to identify the underlying cause.  Even though running may be the inciting event, simply discontinuing your running program will likely not be a long-term solution - and won't make you very happy.

There are a wide range of underlying causes that are commonly associated with this condition.  Because of the varying causes, there is no catch-all treatment for runner’s knee.  Some common causes include:

  • ankle mobility restriction

  • subtalar (ankle) stability issues

  • quadriceps/hamstrings muscle imbalances

  • hip tightness

  • hip weakness

  • core weakness

  • faulty movement mechanics/patterns with activity

A skilled physical therapy assessment would include a detailed movement analysis and joint-by-joint assessment to identify which of these factors may be primarily contributing to your knee pain.  Once the underlying cause is identified and addressed, you will be on your way to long-term improvement and a return to activity.

If you have dealt with knee pain for longer than a couple weeks without a relief in symptoms, it is likely not going to go away on its own.  Schedule a free consult with a physical therapist today to get you back to the activities you love.

Activity Modification

There are several activities that tend to increase symptoms and pain.  Running, exercise, squatting, stairs, and even walking can often cause pain.  This does not mean that these activities need to be immediately discontinued, but it is important to monitor what activities are flaring up your symptoms.  There can often be inflammation within the knee joint, and if you continue to participate in these activities that are increasing symptoms you will likely delay the healing process while increasing symptoms.

While it is important to monitor activities that you notice are increasing pain, you also need to consider how much time during your day is spent sedentary.  If you are spending a large portion of your day seated and not moving – then your body is going to be at an even higher risk to develop runner’s knee once you try to increase activity or exercise.  It is important to keep joints and muscles moving frequently throughout the day.


Download our Free Report on Knee Pain

Tips and Tricks to Eliminate Knee Pain andGet Back to Activity

Author: Dr. Dave Gerbarg, DPT CSCS


Dr. Dave Gerbarg

Dr. Dave Gerbarg is the President and Physical Therapist at One Nine Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy in Solana Beach. He specializes in sports medicine for teenage and adolescent athletes.