Runner’s Knee

For my third ever post on this blog, I’d like to introduce the “injury report”.

The “injury report” category of this blog will focus on common topics related to sports and exercise medicine.

Have you ever had a young friend tell you that they’ve been doing all their standard activities that they usually do – running, basketball, soccer, etc – and suddenly, they’ve developed knee pain that they can’t explain with an injury? They go on to describe the pain as located in the front of the knee. It bothers them mostly with running, bending, squatting, kneeling and getting up from a chair. It kind of feels like it might even be pain ” under the kneecap”.

Well, this is a pretty classic history for patellofemoral syndrome (“PFS” for short), aka Runner’s Knee.

So, why do some people end up with this nagging knee pain when others don’t? Many reasons are thought to predispose people to PFS including the following:

  • flat feet or the opposite
  • tight hamstrings
  • abnormal movement of the kneecap
  • improper alignment of the leg
  • weak inner quadriceps (vastus medialis) and hip abductors/adductors
  • biomechanics when running

The treatment of such pain is simple: fix everything on the list above!

Ok, maybe not so simple. But there are definitely a number  of things you can work on at home or with a physiotherapist the don’t require trading in your legs or feet for a new set.

In general, when I see someone with PFS, I advise them to take a rest from their activities in the acute phase, start some physiotherapy shortly thereafter (largely focusing on vastus medialis, and hip adduction/abduction strength), trial orthotics (if appropriate), and subsequently return to their sport once the pain has resolved and range of motion and strength is restored. At that point, patellar taping techniques or braces can be helpful, but often aren’t necessary.

In summary, everyone has a sport they love. However, it’s important to maintain the strength in muscles that you may not think are contributing directly to your success/talent within that sport. Keep your legs strong and your ass even stronger!

Below are some exercises you can do to avoid or try to help cure PFS symptoms:


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