By: Anthony R. Marino, MD
Runner’s knee, also called patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), is an irritation of the cartilage or tissue underneath the kneecap or the patella. The majority of running injuries are knee injuries and 50% of runners over time experience knee pain. PFPS typically flares up after long runs, when you’ve had to sit at a desk for an extended period of time, or while going up and down stairs or hills. During these activities, extra-load or biomechanical factors impact your knee.Risk factors include flat feet, and muscle imbalance around the quads, hips or knees.
Training Modifications for Runner’s Knee
Like most running injuries, this is the type of injury that you could run through, but reducing your mileage is generally necessary. Avoiding hills can also help you continue running. Cross-training, bicycling, elliptical training, and swimming are knee-friendly activities that should be added to your rehab.
Rehabilitation for Runner’s Knee
Physical therapy is a very important part of the rehabilitation of this knee problem. The large majority of patients improve with formal physical therapy which strengthens the muscles that help realign the kneecap. It is possible to get back into running, as long as you start slowly, increase your running program gradually, and continue to strengthen the muscles around the kneecap.
When to Stop Running and Visit and Orthopaedic Surgeon
You need to stop running and visit an orthopaedic surgeon if you experience severe pain on the inside or outside of the knee or feel like your knee is buckling, catching or giving way. Like most common running injuries, runner’s knee is generally managed non-operatively. We use physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and activity or training modification to help get patients back on the road.