“Runner’s Knee” (Patellofemoral Pain)

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“Runner’s knee” is a blanket term to describe a number of conditions that cause pain at the front of the knee (patellofemoral pain). A common complaint of athletes, it is often the result of irritation in the soft tissues around the front of the knee. For some people, it is the result of their kneecap being out of alignment, which results in the wear and tear of the kneecap cartilage. This chronic wear and tear can eventually cause the cartilage to soften and break down, a condition identified as chondromalacia. As a result, the underlying bone and knee joint become irritated.

You may experience dull, aching pain around the front of the kneecap (the patella) where it connects to the lower end of the thighbone (the femur). The pain may worsen when going up or down stairs, squatting, or kneeling.

Treatment of patellofemoral pain depends on the underlying cause. The most important way to improve your condition is rest and rehabilitation. In some cases, surgery can correct the underlying condition and improve support to the knee. Arthroscopy, which involves the use of a small, pencil-sized camera, can be used to remove small fragments of kneecap cartilage. Realigning the kneecap is also an alternative, and this is done by opening the knee and reducing the abnormal pressures on the cartilage.

What causes “runner’s knee”?

  • The kneecap being out of alignment
  • Overuse
  • Previous injury
  • Weak thigh muscles

At home, general care involves “RICE”:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation