Runners Knee Treatment & Exercises

by Specialized Orthopedics March 25, 2014

How to Avoid Runners Knee

Spring is on its way, the snow is melting and runners are coming out of hibernation. I wanted to share some information about the injury commonly know as runners knee, or patellafemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). PFPS is a common injury in runners but twice as common in females. Below is brief description of runners knee, preventative exercises and treatment.

What Causes Runners Knee:
• A recent increase in activity such as running (overuse syndrome).

• Muscular weakness, myofascial tightness and joint stiffness anywhere down the kinetic chain from hip to the foot.

• Abnormal alignment of your hip, knee and foot which can cause excessive stress and force at the knee joint.

There are many muscles attaching to the knee cap also known as the patella that help stabilize the patella, but also allow for the patella to glide smoothly along the joint during motion. Many times a runner will have certain weaknesses and/or tightness of a muscle or muscle groups that attach to the patella. This can lead to either decreased movement of the patella or excessive motion in one area causing friction and inflammation on the underside of the knee cap. This inflammation leads to pain with movement.

Runners knee is worsened when walking on inclines, uneven surfaces, stair climbing, running or squatting. Pain may also be felt with prolonged sitting or when the knee is bent for long periods of time. Sometimes individuals may hear cracking or popping during knee movement.


Knee Joint           PatellofemoralPain_SM

Other impairments that may be contributing to your runners knee symptoms are:
• Weakness of the quadriceps ( major stabilizer of the knee)

• Tight iliotibial band causing excessive lateral forces on patella

• Tight hamstrings causing posterior force on the knee

• Weak hip muscles including adductors and abductors causing decreased stability at pelvis which can cause compensatory motions at knee and foot.

• Tight calf muscles

• Increased or decreased arches in your foot.

Runners Knee Treatment

Your physical therapist at SOPT will conduct a comprehensive evaluation to examine your body mechanics when running, determine weaknesses, stiffness and joint tightness, as well as your foot type to help determine a program that will address your knee pain and help you return to your individual goals.

Runners Knee Treatment May Include:
• Strengthening of your hip, knee and ankle muscles (commonly the quadriceps and gluteus medius).

• Possible taping techniques’ to reduce pain and inflammation.

• Stretching the hip, knee and ankle muscles.

• Prescription of proper foot wear and orthosis if needed to help absorb shock from impact of the ground.

• Hands on therapy to help decrease myofascial tightness, and improve overall mobility.

• The use of ice, a  natural anti-inflammatory to help reduce pain.

Exercises to Help Prevent Runners Knee:

• Include a 15-20 minute dynamic warm up before you start your run to prepare your muscles for the activity you will be doing.

  • Leg kicks
  • Leg swings
  • Walking lunges with rotation
  •  High Knees
  • Butt Kicks
  • High skips

• You should always be strengthening your legs. Your muscles stabilize your joints during functional movement. If you are lacking stability your risk for injury increases.

• Key muscles are your quadriceps, hamstrings and glute medius and maximus.

• Don’t forget to static stretch for 30-60 seconds for each muscle group. Static stretching after a workout will help decrease muscle tension.

• Don’t start a high intensity running program or increase your mileage to fast. It is important to gradually increase force and duration of workouts.

• Change up your workouts.

• Don’t forget to rest!

• Too much OVERLOAD can lead to BREAKDOWN.

If you are having knee pain call Specialized Orthopedic Physical Therapy. We can help you recover from your injury and get you back to running pain-free!



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