Top 6 Reasons You Experience Knee Pain While Running

runners-kneeAs the name suggests, runner’s knee, also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, is a common ailment among runners. But it can also strike anyone who does activities that require a lot of knee bending, such as walking, crossfit, biking and cycling. But runner’s knee isn’t really a specific injury. It’s a loose term for any one of several conditions that cause pain around the kneecap (patella).

Research has shown that runner’s knee is more common in women than in men, particularly in women of middle age. Overweight individuals are especially prone to the disorder.

Runner’s Knee Causes:

  • The pain of runner’s knee may be activated by a variety of causes. Here are the most common causes of runner’s knee:
  • Thigh and hip/buttock muscle weakness – Weakness in thigh, hip and buttock muscles causes a disproportional load on the kneecap, leading to abnormal wear patterns and inflammatory pain. This improper alignment and tracking can be due to an imbalance of strength between the group of muscles known as the quadriceps and gluteals. This imbalance in strength causes the kneecap to track improperly because it is pulled laterally and out of its track, or causes an increased stress to the cartilage surface underneath the kneecap.
  • Kneecap out of alignment – If any of the bones are slightly out of their correct position — or misaligned — the kneecap can’t smoothly follow its vertical track as the knee bends and extends. This causes wear and tear on the joint. That leads to overuse injuries like runner’s knee and, down the line, osteoarthritis, which can really put a cramp in a runner’s career.
  • Problems with the feet – Runner’s knee can result from conditions of the feet such as fallen arches or overpronation (flat feet). These conditions may excessively stress joints and tissues of the knee. You should always assess your running shoes when experiencing any aches or pains. Make sure they are not too old, and are the correct type of shoes for your feet (more arch support, etc.) Something as simple as an over-the-counter custom insert can help to correct runner’s knee.
  • Direct trauma to the knee – such as a fall or blow.
  • Overuse – Repeated bending or high stress exercises such as lunges, squats, stairs, hills and plyometrics can irritate the kneecap joint. Overstretched tendons as a result of overuse may also cause the pain of runner’s knee.
  • Your training plan – Next, evaluate your training plan. The key points to consider are: Have you been increasing speed or distance recently? Also, are you allowing for adequate recovery time? Increasing mileage too quickly or introducing speed too soon, increases the risk of injury.

Not sure if you have runner’s knee or not? Review these symptoms of runner’s knee. If you have been diagnosed with this condition, you may have to stop running temporarily until the knee pain subsides, but continuing to run will not cause long term damage. If your knee pain has not improved within 4-6 weeks, you should consult your sports medicine physician.

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About the Emory Sports Medicine Center

At the Emory Sports Medicine Center, our team of knee specialists are constantly conducting research and developing new techniques for diagnosing and treating the full range of sports-related injuries. Whether you are a professional athlete, or simply enjoy an active lifestyle, Emory provides comprehensive care, in a patient- and –family- centered environment, so together we achieve the best possible outcome and you can return to the sport you love. To schedule an appointment, call 404-778-3350 or complete our online appointment request form.

About Dr. Hammond

hammond-kyleKyle Hammond, MD, spent his childhood in Johns Creek, GA and graduated from Chattahoochee High School before attending the University of Georgia. During his Emory residency, Dr. Hammond received the “Outstanding Resident Award”, and was twice the 1st runner-up in the Kelly Society’s Annual Research Award. Dr. Hammond’s research on the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL Surgery) won the 1st place Award for Research at the Annual Southern Orthopaedic Association and Georgia Orthopaedic Association meetings. He also worked as a Resident Team Physician for Georgia Tech, Emory, and Oglethorpe University Athletics. After his time at Emory, Dr. Hammond was selected to the ‘world-renowned’ Sports Medicine, Shoulder Surgery, and Concussion Fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. While in Pittsburgh, Dr. Hammond was the Associate Head Team Orthopaedic Surgeon for both the Duquesne University Football team and the University of Pittsburgh Men’s Basketball team. He also worked as a Team Physician for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the University of Pittsburgh athletics, Robert Morris College athletics, as well as the Pittsburgh Ballet. Dr. Hammond then moved on to the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, New York to work alongside the renowned, Dr. Brian Kelly and learn his techniques in the field of hip arthroscopy.

Dr. Hammond has a special interest in ligament injuries to the knee, the overhead and throwing athlete, shoulder arthroscopy, joint preservation/cartilage surgery, and is one of the few fellowship trained hip arthroscopists in Georgia.

Dr. Hammond enjoys spending time with his wife and their twin boys. When he’s not busy with family and work, Dr. Hammond enjoys working-out, golf, tennis, baseball and football.

Additional Resources
Understanding Runners’ Knee aka Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
Protect Your Knees at Any Age

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