Runner's knee, also called patellofemoral pain syndrome refers to pain under and around your kneecap. As the name suggests, runner's knee is a common complaint among runners, jumpers, and other athletes such as skiers, cyclists, and soccer players. Runner's knee can result from poor alignment of the kneecap, complete or partial dislocation, overuse, tight or weak thigh muscles, flat feet, direct trauma to the knee. Patellofemoral pain often comes from strained tendons and irritation or softening of the cartilage that lines the underside of the kneecap.
The most common symptom of runner’s knee is a dull aching pain underneath the kneecap while walking up or down stairs, squatting, kneeling, and sitting with knees bent for long period of time.
The physician will ask about symptoms, get a detailed medical history including sports participation, and other activities that aggravate knee pain. A physical examination of the knee will be performed. Diagnostic imaging tests such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans, and blood tests may be ordered to determine whether pain is due to damage to the structure of the knee or the tissues that attach to it.
Treatment includes avoiding activities that cause pain (such as running and jumping).
Treatment options include both non-surgical and surgical methods. Non-surgical treatment consists of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE protocol); all assist in controlling pain and swelling. Anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed to reduce pain.
The physician may also recommend physical therapy to improve the flexibility and strength of thigh muscles. Cross-training exercises to stretch the lower extremities may also be recommended. The physician may also tape the knee, and recommend the use of a knee brace to reduce pain during sports participation or orthotics may be prescribed for patients with flat feet to help alleviate pain.
In some cases, the doctor may recommend arthroscopic surgery. During arthroscopy, damaged fragments are removed from the kneecap, while realignment moves the kneecap back to its alignment, thus reducing the abnormal pressure on cartilage and supporting structures around the front of the knee.
To prevent recurrence the physician may recommend weight control if overweight to avoid stressing the knees. He may recommend shoe inserts and good quality running shoes for flat feet. Additional recommendations might include gradually increase in the intensity of workout, avoiding running on hard surfaces, warming up before starting any exercise and stretching after exercising.