Woman in athletic gear out for jog holding knee in pain

Is This Serious: Why Does My Kneecap Hurt?

pt HealthIs this serious?, Knee pain

It Could Be Runner’s Knee

Are you a regular runner or have you just started training to run? Have you just started to experience knee pain? 

It’s frustrating to set yourself on a great path to get healthier, only to find that you’re debilitated by a sudden, unknown injury.

Today we’ll explore a possible cause: runner’s knee.

What Causes Runner’s Knee?

You don’t have to be a runner to get runner’s knee, but it is a very common disorder often seen in runners, so the term is used by many athletes or parents of athletes.

The definition of a Runner’s knee is pain experienced at the front of the knee behind your kneecap [1].

It can also be called patellofemoral pain syndrome, which, translated from Latin, is pain where the kneecap (patello) meets the leg (femoral).  

Photograph of woman's knee showing the intersection of the fibula, tabula, and kneecap

So what exactly is happening?

Well, the joining of 3 different bones creates your knee joint. The bone in your thigh and the bone in your lower leg meet, and a third bone called the patella (kneecap) lays in front of that space.

With over-activity or imbalances of strength in your muscles, this area can become inflamed or may not be aligned optimally, resulting in pain at the front of your knee, under or behind your kneecap. 

Concerned about runner’s knee? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.

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Who is at Risk of Getting Runner’s Knee?

Photograph of a mother and two children running in a park.

There are many different reasons that one may have knee pain at the front of the knee, behind the kneecap.

However, 40% of adults and adolescents with knee pain have been diagnosed with patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), or runner’s knee [4].

So how at risk are you?

It has been shown that runner’s knee is more common in females and in young, active adolescents.

Other causes or risk factors include:

  • Muscular imbalance, certain muscles pulling on the knee cap are stronger than others [4,2]
  • Overactivity, sudden and intense increases in training [4]
  • Excessive hill training or running steep descents [1]
  • Lower leg muscle tightness [4,2]
  • Flat feet, changes the alignment of the lower leg and therefore alignment of the knee [4]

Concerned about runner’s knee? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.

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How to Treat Runner’s Knee

Since there can be so many different causes resulting in the same type of pain, it is important that you consult a professional to find what exactly is the root cause.

Just stopping your physical activity or exercising is not the answer.

Most times, the pain arises from the reasons listed above, and should be addressed specifically so that the pain won’t continue or return.

Book A Physio Assessment at pt Health Today

If you’re concerned about knee pain or think you may have symptoms of runner’s knee, we recommend booking an assessment with a qualified physiotherapist.

Your physiotherapist will assess your strength, walking pattern, alignment and many other aspects to determine the root cause.

Afterward, they will provide you with a set of exercises that will target the real problem and allow you to return to the sport that you love.

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  1. P Varma, Stineman, T.R. Dillingham, William J. Erdman. Patellofemoral Pain, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America. 2016-02-01; 27(1): 31-52
  2. Dutton RA, Khadavi MJ, Fredericson M. Update on rehabilitation of patellofemoral pain. Curr Sports Med Rep 2014;13(3):173
  3. Marcus A. Rothermich, Neal R. Glaviano, Jiacheng Li et al. Patellofemoral pain: epidemiology, pathophysiology, and treatment options. Clinics in sports medicine. 2015;.34 (2):313 -327

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