Runner’s Knee

What is runner's knee?

Runner's knee means that you have dull pain around the front of the knee (patella). This is where the knee connects with the lower end of the thighbone (femur).

What causes runner's knee?

Runner's knee may be caused by a structural defect, or a certain way of walking or running. Other causes may include:

  • A kneecap that is too high in the knee joint
  • Weak thigh muscles
  • Tight hamstrings
  • Tight Achilles tendons
  • Poor foot support
  • Walking or running with the feet rolling in while the thigh muscles pull the kneecap outward
  • Excessive training or overuse
  • Injury

What are the symptoms of runner's knee?

These are the most common symptoms of runner's knee:

  • Pain in and around the kneecap that happens when you are active. Or pain after sitting for a long time with the knees bent. This sometimes causes weakness or feelings of instability.
  • Rubbing, grinding, or clicking sound of the kneecap that you hear when you bend and straighten your knee
  • Kneecap that is tender to the touch

The symptoms of runner's knee may look like other conditions and health problems. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.

How is runner's knee diagnosed?

Your health care provider can diagnose runner's knee by looking at your health history and doing a physical exam.

How is runner’s knee treated?

Your health care provider will figure out the best treatment based on:

  • How old you are
  • Your overall health and health history
  • How much pain you have
  • How well you can handle specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
  • How long the condition is expected to last
  • Your opinion or preference

The best course of treatment for runner's knee is to stop running until you can run again without pain. Other treatment may include:

  • Cold packs
  • Elevating the leg
  • Compression knee wrap
  • Medicines such as ibuprofen
  • Stretching exercises
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Arch support in shoes

Can runner’s knee be prevented?

Preventing runner’s knee includes not overstressing your knees. You can do this by:

  • Losing weight if needed
  • Stretching before running
  • Increasing your activities gradually
  • Wearing good running shoes
  • Running leaning forward with your knees bent

Key points about runner's knee

  • Runner's knee is dull pain around the front of the knee.
  • It may be caused by a structural defect, or a certain way of walking or running.
  • Symptoms include pain, and rubbing, grinding, or clicking sound of the kneecap.
  • Treatment includes not running until pain goes away. Also using cold packs, compression, and elevation may help. Medicine such as ibuprofen can lessen pain and reduce inflammation. Stretching and strengthening exercises can help prevent runner’s knee. 


Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.