Runner’s knee is a condition characterised by a dull, aching pain felt around or under the knee cap at the front of the knee. The pain is typically worse during or after physical activity such as running or jumping, when walking up or downstairs and when sitting for long periods. Runner’s knee is very common and, as the name suggests, most often affects runners or those who perform regular exercises involving running or jumping.
The kneecap, or patella, sits at the front of the knee and is responsible for transmitting the force from the quadriceps muscle to the shin bone to enable the knee to straighten. Significant forces are placed through the patella when walking up or downstairs, running or jumping. The causes of runner’s knee are poorly understood. However, factors that are thought to cause runner’s knee include a sudden change or increase in training programmes, muscle tightness around the knee or hip, muscle strength imbalance around the knee or hip, anatomical abnormalities around the knee and poor running biomechanics. The majority of people with runner’s knee see improvement in their symptoms without needing any treatment. Simple self-help measures can be very effective at relieving symptoms caused by runner’s knee, these include; · Stretching exercises of your hamstrings and quadriceps · Weight loss if you are overweight · Application of an ice pack after periods of exercise · Strengthening exercises of your hamstrings and quadriceps
If your symptoms have failed to improve despite these simple measures after six weeks you should contact your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to a physiotherapist for further management. You may be offered a structured stretching and exercise programme which is very effective at relieving your symptoms. People often see significant improvement in their symptoms with these exercises, though this can take up to 12 weeks for improvements to be felt.
The doctor will ask you about your symptoms and examine you. If they are satisfied that you have runner’s knee they may refer you to see a physiotherapist, depending upon local services available. Very rarely, if your symptoms fail to improve despite physiotherapist input, you may be referred for further investigation such as an MRI or to an orthopaedic surgeon. Only very occasionally does runner’s knee require consideration of surgery.