What is Runner’s Knee? Causes, Treatment & Prevention

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Runners may feel a dull pain in their knee when they are running, with a rubbing or clicking sound at the kneecap, and becomes what’s known as runner’s knee. It doesn’t affect just runners and can happen to anyone who has participated in activities that require constant bending and straightening of the knee.  

Most people ignore it in hopes that it will go away. However, the pain in your knee may worsen if left untreated, and can develop into a more chronic condition and affect your daily living.  

What is runner’s knee? 

This condition is called runners’ knee as it commonly happens to runners, hikers, and serious walkers. Runners often overexert the tendon, resulting in overuse. Some runners also may experience other types of foot or lower limb injuries, but runner’s knee is most common. 

runners knee tendons

Many runners who have runners’ knee continue running despite the pain, thinking that it might be due to insufficient warmup or lack of fluids. Unfortunately, ignoring the pain can aggravate the condition quickly.   

There are many causes of runners’ knee, such as:  

  • Flat feet or overpronation  
  • Malalignment of bones due to birth disorder 
  • Overuse of the knee or excessive training 
  • Knee injury from an accident  
  • Deterioration of cartilage below the kneecap  
  • Weak thigh muscles that cannot securely hold the kneecap in place   
  • A certain way of walking or running that negatively affects your knee  

The more active you are in your physical activity, the greater your risk of having runners’ knee. Athletes are the most susceptible, followed by marathon runners and then hobbyists.   

Things to take note of about runner’s knee  

Most knee pain is thought of as “runner’s knee”. Pinpointing the exact area which hurts will help you identify if it is indeed the runner’s knee.   

There are two types of runners’ knee: iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) or patellofemoral syndrome (PFPS). ITBS affects the side of the thigh and knee, while PFPS affects the kneecap and its surrounding area.  

Doing a deep knee bend will hurt significantly for PFPS sufferers but less so for ITBS sufferers. Also, in PFPS, the pain would have accumulated gradually over months or years, whereas ITBS pain symptoms occur suddenly.  

If it’s not treated early, it could result in chronic knee problems. Undergoing extensive treatment would then mean you’d be out of the game for a while, which, ironically, is crucial to recovering.  

We all know running is a deep passion for many, but you can’t be at your best performance without adequate rest and recovery. Therefore, the best way to get ahead is to prevent it.  

When do you know if it’s not just runner’s knee? If you encounter swelling or throbbing pain in the back of your knee, it could be another medical condition that is even more severe.  

How to prevent or treat runner’s knee

prevent runners kneeThere are many ways to prevent a runner’s knee, such as proper warmups in stretching and formal running attire. If you would like to increase the intensity of your workouts, do so gradually rather than incrementally.  

In severe cases that involve a misaligned kneecap or damaged cartilage, the ideal treatment option is typically surgery. For most minor issues, however, conventional pain management would suffice, for example, the RICE method.

  • Rest: Avoid repeated stress on your knee, don’t do any strenuous physical activity.  
  • Ice: Apply an ice pack on your knee for half an hour at a time. This will reduce pain and swelling.  
  • Compression: Wrap your knee with an elastic bandage to restrict swelling. 
  • Elevation: When you are sitting or lying down, place a pillow under your knee to elevate it and prevent further swelling.  

Placing good arch support in your shoes will also help ensure your knees are well supported, preventing injury recurrence.  

If the pain gets too much for you to bear, it’s best to consult a specialist or a sports doctor who will be able to prescribe painkiller medications.  


sports doctor knee painIn all cases, if the pain is getting too unbearable or you have been suffering from consistent knee pain for quite some time, do remember to consult a sports doctor! After all, you want to make sure that you’ll be able to enjoy running as a hobby for the rest of your life.  

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