Patellofemoral pain syndrome or runner's knee as commonly called is a condition that causes knee pain (front or sides of the kneecap). Although the name implies that it is commonly caused by running, it may be caused by any strenuous activity that strains the knee, including activities like basketball, soccer, or even walking. And it worsens if it is not effectively handled. So much that regular actions like kneeling or leaping might become quite unpleasant and painful due to the discomfort. Although excessive and strenuous exercise levels are frequently greater causes of this condition, being overweight may make someone more susceptible to it.

But there is good news: it can be easily managed by adjusting activity levels, implementing beneficial exercise routines, and using orthotic shoes.

What Causes Runner's Knee?

Some of the common causes of runner’s knees include:

Overuse of the knee: Overtraining or frequent usage of the knee can lead to runner's knees, especially if the knees aren't given enough time to recuperate. This may also occur if exercise intensity is abruptly raised.

Excessive Body weight: Since the knees bear the brunt of the body's weight already, being overweight puts additional strain on them.

Muscle weakness: A person who has weak or underdeveloped thigh or hip muscles may later develop a runner's knee. This occurs due to the knee's higher burden as a result of limited assistance from the muscles.

Injury: A change in the knee functioning as a consequence of an ankle, hip, or knee injury is another cause of a runner's knee.

One more thing to note is that research has indicated that women are more likely to get runner's knee, particularly as they age.

Symptoms of Runner's Knee

The signs of a runner's knee might differ from person to person since it can be brought on by a variety of factors. Some signs to take heed of are:

Discomfort in the knee: Pain in the knee area is frequently a symptom of a runner's knee (might be front of the knee or sides of the kneecap). It can be slight discomfort when you're at rest that gets worse when you use or engage your knee. 

Crepitus: Knee crepitus is a popping, clicking, or crackling noise. This is more typical after a prolonged period of relaxation (such as getting out of bed in the morning). It may improve as you go about your activities.

Stiffness: Increased knee discomfort or stiffness during extended periods of rest is another indication of a runner’s knee (like sitting for a prolonged period).

Swelling: Although it is uncommon, the front of the knee may become inflamed, resulting in swelling. In turn, this restricts motion and worsens pain. This is sometimes referred to as "water on the knee". Generally speaking, stiffness and swelling levels vary, but discomfort and pain might worsen as the level of activity become more intense.

Runner's Knee Treatment

A course of therapy should be chosen once the diagnosis of the runner's knee has been made. The following are some successful therapies for this condition:

R.I.C.E. for Runner's Knee

Rest, icing, compression, and elevation, or R.I.C.E. It is suggested that the R.I.C.E. therapy is used to battle the early symptoms if you are experiencing them for the first time.

Rest - Do your best to avoid anything that might put stress on your knee.

Ice - For at least 30 minutes, once a day, place a pack of ice on the area where you feel pain or discomfort.

Compression - To stop discomfort or additional swelling, apply compression using an elastic wrap,
such as the Flexelf knee wrap.

Elevation - To avoid additional swelling, always keep your knee elevated with cushions whether sitting or lying down.

Runner's Knee: Additional Treatment

- Anti-inflammatory medications can also be purchased from a pharmacy as an additional alternative to dull the pain and minimize swelling.

- Any stiff muscles near the knee and hip should be loosened up and strengthened via physical therapy. The focus should be on exercises that support maintaining proper knee and hip alignment. Clamshells and straight leg lifts are two excellent workouts.

Preventing Runner's Knee

- Maintaining excellent health is the most efficient approach to avoiding a runner's knee. Make every effort to keep or get in shape especially if you weigh more than is healthy.

- Individuals with irregular foot anatomy or movement patterns must use orthotics or correct running shoes to avoid knee pain after running.

- Avoid making training mistakes like abruptly raising the volume and speed of your runs. Volume or pace of running can be increased gradually by 10 to 15 percent without harming the knee.

- Stretch and Warm up before engaging in any workouts or activities that might stress your knee, as the runner's knee develops from tight tissues. Exercises such as hamstring and quadriceps stretches are pretty effective.

- Run in a zigzag pattern when going down a slope and avoid running on concrete or other hard surfaces

When You Should See a Specialist

There are a few exceptional cases where the discomfort persists even though you've tried your best. You should get in touch with a specialist for a comprehensive examination. This will offer an opportunity to extensively explain your symptoms and overall health in addition to the comprehensive assessment. The activities that make it worse and the level of pain—whether it is light or severe—will be discussed. During this assessment, the specialist will also try to pinpoint the precise area of discomfort or pain. To assess your fitness and knee strength, you might also be asked to complete exercises like walking, leaping, or squatting.

Physical examinations are frequently effective in identifying a runner's knee. To ensure that the bones supporting the knee are unharmed, an x-ray may be necessary.

Is Surgical Treatment an Option?

Patellofemoralpain syndrome is often managed and treated non-surgically. Having said that,surgical treatment may be required if the patellofemoral discomfort or pain issevere and it does not seem to improve with nonsurgical therapy.

Surgicalprocedures may include: 

Lateral release - This is usually done torelax the retinaculum tendon. In cases where this tissue is so tight that thepatella gets pulled from the trochlear groove during motion. The misalignmentultimately results in a runner’s knee and this procedure will help realign thejoint. 

Debridement - In other cases, debridement can bedone to provide relief by removing the affected articular cartilage causingpain on the patella's surface. 

Arthroscopy - Arthroscopy can also be done by yourdoctor. Your knee will be examined with an arthroscope (a small camera). Ascreen is utilized to display images from the camera, which is needed to directthe procedure's small equipment. 

Tuberosity Transfer - For repositioning thekneecap, the patellar tendon and a bony protrusion on the tibia are relocatedand secured with screws inside of the knee. The mobility of the kneecap isimproved as a result of this transfer.

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