Runner’s Knee: Causes & Treatment

by Onward Physical Therapy | June 27, 2023 |
 Knee Pain
Runner’s Knee: Causes & Treatment

What is Runner’s Knee? 

Runner’s knee is a painful condition frequently occurring in endurance athletes where the patellofemoral joint (knee-cap) becomes painful during runs. This is among the most commonly occurring running-related injuries and can range from mild knee pain that warms up during your runs to debilitating levels that prevent any training.

Common Causes of Runner’s Knee

There are four main causes of Runner’s Knee development in endurance athletes: training errors, running technique issues, mobility limitations, and strength deficits.

  • Training Volume Errors are probably the most common contributor to Runner’s knee development. We see this when athletes too aggressively increase their training volume and exceed their body’s ability to recover from workouts. Following a slower ramp-up in training volume usually prevents this development.
  • Overstriding is the most common running technique issue in athletes developing Runner’s knee. When athletes overstride, their foot lands in front of the knee when it makes contact with the ground. This creates a “braking force” and significantly more load on the knee. Several other technique contributors to Runner’s Knee can be picked up on in a Comprehensive Gait Assessment
  • Ankle Mobility Limitations can impact your running form, leading to altered mechanics that will be found in a gait assessment and are also an essential consideration in rehabbing Runner’s knee.
  • Quad or Glute Weakness is also often associated with Runner’s knee development. When your leg muscles are weak, running form often changes to patterns that load the joints more than the muscles, instead of all tissues sharing the load. A properly dosed strength program will improve strength and help improve your running efficiency. 

How Can Physical Therapy Help With Runner’s Knee?

Physical therapists specializing in running-related injuries can get you back on the road fast! PTs that understand how to test the above common contributors and are training in gait assessments are your best bet for understanding the complete picture of what is needed to alleviate Runner’s knee and improve your running performance.

Common Exercises to Relieve Runner’s Knee Pain

For athletes with overstriding issues, we often use the following Forward Lean drill to work on the foot landing under the body rather than out in front.

View Video on YouTube Here 

To improve strength in your quads and glutes to help with pain relief, see this article for a few of our favorite exercises!

Ready to Get Serious About Runner’s Knee Relief?

Onward Physical Therapy clinics focus on helping active individuals get back to doing the activities they love. And assisting runners to stay on the road is our passion! Our team of experienced therapists can help you alleviate Runner’s Knee pain and improve your running performance long-term. Let’s go!