What is Runner’s Knee?
“Runner’s Knee” refers to pain coming from the front (anterior) part of your knee. It is one of the most common conditions affecting the knee joint and most commonly arises when too much stress has been applied to the knee cap.
Pain is either produced by the knee cap contacting the thigh bone (femur) or from the knee cap pulling on the surrounding soft tissue structures (Tendons, ligaments and joint capsule). This condition is also commonly referred to as “Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome” (PFPS) or “Anterior knee pain”.
Where does Anterior Knee Pain arise from?
As the knee bends and straightens the knee cap moves within its own groove in the knee joint. The underlying surface of the knee cap has its own supporting cartilage that covers the areas where there is bone on bone contact with the femur. Runner’s knee pain can occur due to a constant irritation of this underlying cartilage and commonly occurs due to decreases in muscular strength or tightness. It can also be due to an acute injury that has resulted in damage to the cartilage.
The supporting thigh muscles (quadriceps) play a very important role in guiding the knee cap as the knee flexes and extends. Most specifically the inner most quadriceps VMO (vastus medialis obliquis) reduces shearing forces of the knee cap on the knee joint.
What puts someone at risk of getting Runner’s Knee?
Runner’s knee is a very common condition across all age groups. It is often seen in young healthy athletes especially teenage girls due to the VMO weakness mentioned earlier. Furthermore, people who have excessive tightness of those soft tissue structures around the knee can cause abnormal movement of the knee cap. This may arise due to natural alignment issues, poor training technique or just general over training. There are cases where an acute episode of trauma (falling onto a bent knee) can begin an episode of Runner’s Knee if it hasn’t been managed correctly after the fall.
What symptoms can I expect with Runners’ Knee?
Runner’s knee can present with pain over the front of the knee cap during running. When quite sore this pain can extend from around the knee cap to the entire knee and possibly feelings of tightness or pain up the outside of the leg. During the day Runner’s Knee pain can occur whilst the knee is bent when sitting/driving and may be particularly painful when climbing up and down stairs/hills.
How is Runner’s knee treated?
The first goal of rehab is to protect the knee from further pain; so incorporating a sufficient period of relative rest from the aggravating activity is the first step. Ascertaining the cause of the pain is next; is it cartilage, soft tissue structures or biomechanical factors. From here one of our Physiotherapists will decide on the best management strategy to get you back on track as soon as possible!