What is runner’s knee? What causes runner’s knee? How do you prevent runner’s knee?

Its summer time, which means many people are out participating in local 5k, 10k, half and full marathons. Consequently, runners are training more often, and may become susceptible to repetitive use injuries in the knee. The two most common knee injuries in runners are patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) and iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS).

PFPS is pain under or along the knee cap itself, while ITBS is pain along the outside of the knee that may or may not extend up the side of the thigh toward the hip. PFPS can be caused by misalignment of the knee cap, or a variety of other factors, including hamstring and/or calf tightness, quadriceps or hip weakness, or altered foot/orthotic mechanics. ITBS can be caused by iliotibial band tightness, or other factors such as weak hip muscles, improper footwear, or repetitive overuse, (which means running too often or too far). Both PFPS and ITBS can be aggravated by poor running form.

To combat knee pain when running, first warm up with a brisk walk and dynamic stretching. Wear proper footwear, and alternate your running program with cross training workouts (think squats, lunges, planks, etc.) to help keep hip and core muscles strong and flexible. Cross training is also helpful in avoiding repetitive overuse injuries, because your body is not constantly being stressed by the same repetitive movement patterns incurred with running. Gradually, yet consistently increase your running distance, and avoid over-striding, which can contribute to or worsen existing knee pain. If you are having persistent pain, take some time off, and if necessary seek help from your local physical therapist.

Kristin Collins, PT, DPT, COMT