Description of Runner’s Knee

Runners knee refers to a junk-basket term of multiple pathologies that can cause knee pain. Most commonly they are due to an overuse-type problem, whereby a few of the hamstrings become too tight or a quadriceps becomes weak and the tissues around the knee become irritated. This can also include overuse-type syndromes, which can cause friction irritation where structures cross the knee, such as iliotibial band friction syndrome.

Symptoms of Runners Knee:

  • Pain behind or around the kneecap
  • Pain bending the knee
  • Swelling
  • Pain that becomes worse when walking downstairs or downhill
  • Pain along the outside of the knee after running over two miles

Treatment for Runner’s Knee

In the majority of cases, the treatment for runners knee is non-operative. This would include a program of stretching, cross training, and low-impact exercising. If one does not have any improvement over time with cutting back activities and cross training, such as cycling, elliptical use, or swimming, then one should be evaluated to determine if there is an underlying cause that is contributing to the symptoms.

Sometimes, a localized cartilage defect or a meniscus tear can cause the knee to swell with activities, which can lead to the same type of symptoms that one sees in runners knee. Therefore, if cutting back on activities is not useful, an evaluation to include a clinical exam, X-rays, and possibly an MRI scan may be indicated.