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Runner’s Knee – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Runner’s Knee – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Runner’s knee refers to conditions that cause pain around the patella or kneecap. This could include iliotibial band syndrome, chondromalacia patella, anterior knee pain syndrome and patellofemoral malalignment. These conditions affect women more frequently compared to men.


Runner’s knee is typically caused by activities such as running, biking, jumping, playing soccer, etc. that stress the knee joint and irritate the lining of the knees or soft tissues, cartilage and tendons in the joint. People who are overweight have a higher risk of suffering from runner’s knee. Some of the factors that contribute towards it are:

  • Trauma
  • Overuse
  • Misaligned kneecap
  • Flat feet
  • Partial or complete kneecap dislocation
  • Fractured kneecap
  • Arthritis
  • Exercising without stretching
  • Weak thigh muscles
  • synovial plica syndrome or plica syndrome wherein the joint lining is inflamed and thickened


Runner’s knee is characterized by a dull pain around the kneecap where the thigh bone is connected to the femur. This pain may be experienced while walking, climbing stairs, kneeling, squatting, running or when one gets up after sitting for a long time. Other symptoms include a grinding sensation in the knees and swelling of the joint.

In the case of iliotibial band syndrome, this pain is experienced more acutely around the outside of the knee.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Runner’s knee is diagnosed through physical examinations, blood tests, and imaging tests such as an X-ray, CT scan and MRI.

Treatment is aimed at curing the underlying condition causing runner’s knee.  In most cases, surgery can be avoided.

Follow RICE

RICE (Rest + Ice + Compression + Elevation) is promoted as the first step of treatment. Rest the knee to avoid stress and try to keep the joint elevated by resting it on a pillow while lying down. If the swelling is significant, lie down and raise the leg such that the knee is level with the heart.

Apply an icepack over the joint for up to 30 minutes at a stretch to relieve swelling and pain. When applying an icepack, always keep a towel or thick cloth between the skin and icepack. You should also wrap the knee in an elastic sleeve or bandage to keep the joint from swelling further.

Use Pain Relievers

Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) may also help relieve pain. Ideally, you should consult a doctor before taking such medication.

Once the swelling and pain have subsided, physiotherapy and a few exercises may be advised to restore motion in the knee and to strengthen the joint. The doctor may also advise wearing shoe inserts for some time.

Surgery is typically recommended only if the cartilage if damaged or if the kneecap is misaligned.


Some ways to prevent and reduce the risk of runner’s knee are:

  • Always stretch adequately before working out
  • Increase the intensity of a workout gradually
  • Regulate your weight to stay within healthy limits
  • Wear good quality shoes while walking and running
  • Wear orthotics if you have flat feet
  • Avoid running on concrete and instead run on a soft, smooth surface
  • When going downhill, walk or run while following a zigzag pattern

Take good care of yourself and if you have the condition consult a Orthopaedic Specialist. For more details, visit www.BangaloreShoulderInstitute.com

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