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While this condition is common among runners, as the name implies, runner’s knee can occur in all many types of athletes, especially if their sport requires repeated bending of the knees.

Causes for Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee (Patello-femoral Pain) is not technically a specific injury, but more a generalized term that includes many different disorders of the knee with various causes, including:

  • Direct trauma or injury
  • Overuse associated with such activities as jumping or squatting
  • Malalignment of the knee (usually resulting in maltracking of the patella/kneecap)
  • Improper muscle balance and weak thigh (Quadricep) muscles

 Symptoms of Runner’s Knee

The most common symptoms of runner’s knee include the following:

  • Pain on bending the knee, associated with activities such as squatting, jogging/running, or kneeling. It can even happen when arising from a sitting position.
  • Worsening of the pain when walking downhill or down stairs.
  • Pain localized around the kneecap.
  • Swelling in the front of the knee
  • A Grinding or popping sensations in the region of the kneecap.

If any of the above symptoms are present, a thorough physical examination and diagnostic studies are done to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment for Runner’s Knee

Treatments will vary depending on the cause and severity of runner’s knee and it is best to consult with an orthopedic specialist to determine the most effective recovery protocol.

Minor to moderate cases of runner’s knee generally resolve given the appropriate amount of time and treatment. An orthopedic specialist may recommend the following measures:

  • Avoiding as much as possible the activities that may have caused the pain- such as kneeling, squatting, or jumping, until the pain resolves.
  • Elevate the knee with a pillow when sitting or lying down.
  • The use of a patellar stabilizing brace
  • Icing the knee to reduce swelling and minimize pain. Keep ice directly on the knee for 20-30 minutes every three to four hours over the course of two to three days.
  • The use of over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like Motrin, Advil, or Aleve.
  • Physical therapy is often prescribed to educate the patient on an appropriate rehabilitation regimen

Keep in mind that it is best to consult an orthopedic specialist before starting any treatment regimen as some exercises/medications may affect the injury in different ways.

Rarely, and usually only in the most severe of cases, surgery may be necessary to address any cartilage problems and, in some cases, correct the malalignment of the tracking of the patella, so that stress upon weight-bearing would be distributed more evenly. However, surgical procedures are considered only when all conservative modalities have failed to provide relief and there is an underlying defect of the knee that is present and must be addressed.


Dr. Nicholas Alexander is the Founder of Mahwah Valley Orthopedic Associates and a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon specializing in both the surgical and non-surgical treatment of hip and knee conditions.  Dr. Alexander completed his Fellowship in Adult Reconstruction and Reconstructive Surgery of the Hip and Knee at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and has over two decades of experience. He also serves as the Chairman of the Valley Hospital Total Joint Center. Dr. Alexander has offices in Mahwah and Clifton, NJ.  If you, or someone you love, is considering treatment for chronic knee pain, contact us today for a consultation.

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