Do you have pain in the front of your knee behind the kneecap? If so, you may have patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS for short), commonly known as “runners’ knee”. Typically runners’ knee is not a product of an injury, but is caused by abnormal leg mechanics including weakness in the quadriceps which result in poor tracking of the kneecap.
You can increase your risk of developing runners’ knee if you have tight hamstrings, or do not warm up enough before an event. Runners often experience patellofemoral pain as they increase their running distance and/or frequency.
Symptoms of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome:
- Pain in the knee, usually in the front of the knee, behind the kneecap
- Pain in the back of the knee or also above or below the kneecap
- Pain that gets worse after sitting for long periods of time
- Pain that gets worse after going up or especially down stairs or hills
- Pain that gets worse when wearing shoes with high heels
- Pain with jumping, squatting, and lunging
- “Crunching” or “popping” in the knee
- Minimal swelling
The good news is that this condition is treatable with improving your overall leg mechanics. You should think about incorporating strength training into your running training so that you strengthen the quadriceps and gluteus muscles. It is also important to stretch the hamstrings and IT band. If you have flat feet or foot pronation (fallen arches) you should consider inserting orthotics in your shoes to support your arches.
If you are 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. You should at least consider adding in cross training with activities such as swimming and cycling which will be easier on the knee with PFPS and maintain your fitness. Make sure to ice your knee after exercise and take anti-inflamatories like ibuprofen. You may also want to try a neoprene sleeve for comfort. Refer to this Patellofemoral Syndrome document for some exercises you can safely do to strengthen the muscles, increase flexibility and stretch the quadriceps.
If your knee pain has not improved within 4-6 weeks, you should consult your sports medicine physician.
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Emory Healthcare is the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia and includes Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown, Emory University Orthopedics & Spine Hospital, Wesley Woods Center, Saint Joseph’s Hospital, Emory Johns Creek Hospital, Emory Adventist Hospital, The Emory Clinic, Emory Specialty Associates, and the Emory Clinically Integrated Network.
Come visit us at the AJC Peachtree Road Race expo in booth 527 to get your blood pressure checked and learn more about how Emory Healthcare can help you and your family stay healthy!
About Dr. Jeff Webb
Jeff Webb, MD, is an assistant professor of orthopaedics at Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center. Dr. Webb started practicing at Emory in 2008 after completing a Fellowship in Primary Care Sports Medicine at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Alabama. He is board certified in pediatrics and sports medicine. He is a team physician for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, and serves as the primary care sports medicine and concussion specialist for the team. He is also a consulting team physician for several Atlanta area high schools, the Atlanta Dekalb International Olympic Training Center, Emory University, Oglethorpe University, Georgia Perimeter College, and many other club sports.
Dr. Webb sees patients of all ages and abilities with musculoskeletal problems, but specializes in the care of pediatric and adolescent patients. He works hard to get players “back in the game” safely and as quickly as possible. He is currently active in the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine and American Academy of Pediatrics professional societies and has given multiple lectures at national conferences as well as contributed to sports medicine text books. Dr Webb is an avid runner and has completed 16 Peachtree Road Races.
- Exercises for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PDF)
- Debunking Common Running Myths
- Is it Possible to Over-train for a Running Race?
- How to Prevent Plantar Fasciitis