What is Runner’s Knee (Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome)?

As the weather is getting warmer, people are running outdoors to enjoy the scenic views.  The occurrence of knee pain as a result of running may increase along w/ activity levels. A common diagnosis that I see amongst runners is Runner’s Knee (Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome).  Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome is a painful knee condition as a result of the kneecap (patella) does not move properly in the groove of the thigh bone (femur). The repetitive friction due to improper movement can be painful over time.

Looking at the picture, you will see that the patella sits in the groove of the femur. Every time you straighten and bend your knee, the patella has to move up and down the groove of the femur. Your quadriceps (front thigh) muscles attach to the patella. Weakness in the quadriceps muscle or tightness at the Iliotibial band can cause the patella to move improperly in the groove of the femur, which can be painful over time. Tightness of the iliotibial band can be caused by weakness in the glute muscles which can contribute to the patella moving improperly.

Running requires adequate strength in the quadriceps and glutes for the patella to properly move as your knee straightens and bends during this activity. The high impact force of running can be painful as your patella is not moving properly due to weakness in these muscles.

Physical Therapy will usually focus on strengthening the quadriceps and glute muscles along with stretching the iliotibial band to promote proper movement of the patella. Foam rolling the iliotibial band will address the tender points along the iliotibial band. Stiffness in the lower back can affect the nerves that innervate your glute and quadriceps muscles. When the nerve is affected, it can result in weakness in the muscles and contribute to the patella moving improperly.  Addressing lower back stiffness can contribute towards the improvement of your glute and quadriceps strength, which can help improve knee pain.

If you are having knee pain during running, come see a Physical Therapist at All Sports Physical Therapy. Your Physical Therapist will thoroughly examine you and create a treatment plan to get you back to running pain-free!


By Richard Mak PT, DPT

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