Runner’s knee is a very common problem, and it doesn’t just affect runners. It is characterized by aching pain around and underneath the kneecap that may occur while walking, running, climbing stairs, kneeling, standing up, squatting, or when sitting for long periods of time with a bent knee. It can affect anyone, but is most common among overweight middle-aged women. Runner’s knee (technically called patellofemoral pain syndrome) can be confused with other causes of pain in the knee area, such as iliotibial band syndrome, so it is important to get a professional diagnosis.
What Causes Runner’s Knee?
Runner’s knee can be caused by a variety of conditions, such as:
- A kneecap that is located too high in the joint due to an inherited tendency
- Weak thigh muscles
- Weak hip muscles
- Tight hamstrings
- Excessive training
In most cases, doctors think weak muscles or imbalances in the strength of the muscles in the thighs and hips are the cause of runner’s knee. For example, if the muscles on the outside of the thigh are strong while the hamstring is tight and the muscles on the inside of the thigh are weak, with each step, the foot tends to roll in while the outer thigh muscles pull the kneecap sideways, which eventually leads to pain, inflammation, and irritation. Similarly, if the hip muscles are weak, with each step, the pelvis is not supported and tends to rock, sending torque down the leg to the knee. Excessive training in and of itself can cause pain, inflammation, and irritation to the area around and underneath the kneecap.
Initial treatment always involves RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation of the leg. In some cases, an anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen can help provide relief. In cases of simply overdoing it, these measures may be sufficient to treat the condition.
Once the initial inflammation has been alleviated, it is important to consult a professional in order to obtain advice about individualized exercises to correct any imbalances in muscle strength and any problems with running and walking form. If surgery is necessary, you should be pleased to know that at Plymouth Bay Orthopedic Associates, we perform arthroscopic and ligament reconstruction procedures using state-of-the-art techniques and equipment. If you suffer from runner’s knee or want advice on how to prevent this painful condition, make an appointment at our office in Sandwich or Duxbury sooner rather than later. Contact us today to book your consultation!