Runner’s Knee; Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

ShoreOrtho Sports Performance & Injury Prevention Tips

A monthly series
presented by:

Damon A. Greene, MD
Board Certified Orthopaedic Surgeon
Shore Orthopaedic University Associates
July 2020


Runner’s Knee

Patellofemoral pain syndrome also called Runners knee refers to pain under and around your kneecap.  Runner’s knee is a term that can describe many medical conditions such as anterior knee pain syndrome, patellofemoral malalignment, and chondromalacia patella. All of these conditions can cause pain around the anterior portion of the knee. Runner’s knee is a common complaint among many athletes from soccer players to jumpers to skiers and of course runners.



Causes

Runner’s knee can happen for many reasons.  From poor alignment of the kneecap, complete or partial dislocation, overuse, tight or weak thigh muscles, flat feet, direct trauma to the knee.  Patellofemoral pain often comes from the softening of the cartilage that lines the underside of the kneecap. The pain can also arise from the strained ligaments and tendons around the knee.

Symptoms

The most common symptom of runner’s knee is a dull aching pain underneath the kneecap while walking up or down stairs, squatting, kneeling, and sitting with your knees bent for long period of time.

Anatomy

The patella, also called kneecap, is a small flat triangular bone located at the front of the knee joint. The function of the patella is to protect the front part of the knee and to provide a mechanical advantage to the quadriceps muscles.

Diagnosis

To diagnose runner’s knee, your doctor will ask about your symptoms, medical history, any sports participation, and activities that aggravate your knee pain. Your doctor will perform a physical examination of your knee. Diagnostic imaging tests such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans, and blood tests may be ordered to check if your pain is due to damage to the structure of the knee or because of the tissues that attach to it.

Treatment

The first treatment step is to modify your activities.  Non-surgical treatment consists of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE protocol); all assist in controlling pain and swelling.  Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed to reduce pain. Depending on the cause modalities such as knee bracing, and orthotics (for flat feet) might be prescribed.

Exercises: Your doctor may recommend an exercise program to improve the flexibility and strength of thigh muscles.

In some cases, you may need surgery that includes arthroscopy and realignment. During arthroscopy, damaged cartilage fragments are removed from the kneecap. Sometimes donor cartilage known as allografts are used to replace the damaged cartilage. While realignment procedures move the kneecap into alignment, thus reducing the abnormal pressure on cartilage and supporting structures around the front of the knee.

As always you should contact your sports medicine physician if you have an injury that doesn’t improve with home treatment. Dr. Greene at Shore Orthopedic University Associates is a specialty-trained sports medicine surgeon who provides personalized care for all types of orthopedic injuries.

Dr. Greene is a Sports Medicine Fellowship-Trained, Board Certified Orthopaedic Surgeon.
He specializes in; acute and chronic ligament, tendon, or cartilage injuries to all major joints; primarily shoulders, elbows, knees and hips. He treats fractures surgically when necessary, but performs casting, bracing, and other non-operative treatments such as specialized injection therapies.

 

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