Knee pain in runners

Runner’s knee is a general term for knee pain felt around the kneecap. Physiotherapists often refer to runner’s knee as “patellofemoral pain”.  The patellofemoral joint is composed of the kneecap (patella) and the thigh bone (femur).  The patella should fit snugly into a groove on the femur and track smoothly in this groove when the knee bends.   If the patella does not track normally it can cause knee pain, joint irritation and overtime may lead to degeneration or wear-and-tear of the joint surface.

Patellofemoral pain affects 25% of people at some time in their lives. It is more common in athletes and is often seen in sports that involve running, jumping, landing or squatting (e.g. running, tennis and netball). 

The most common causes of patellofemoral joint pain are:

  • Muscle imbalance around the knee- tightness and/or weakness of the muscles around the knee.
  • Biomechanical factors including the position of the pelvis, knee and ankle. Poor foot posture (e.g. flat feet) and weak hip muscles can also contribute to maltracking of the patella.

The onset of knee pain is often gradual rather than traumatic. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain with weight bearing or jarring activities.
  • Pain with stairs, squatting, kneeling, hopping or running.
  • Pain when sitting with knee bent.
  • If more severe you may have knee pain with walking and when resting.

Knee pain is mostly likely to occur when there is a sudden change in your exercise routine or training. This may be an increase in the frequency (how often your run), the intensity (how hard you run) or the time/ distance (how long you run for).

To prevent injury it is important to remember a few key points.

  • Make any changes in your exercise program gradually. You can either increase the frequency, the intensity or the time each week. Not all three at once!
  • Drink plenty of water when exercising.
  • Wear comfortable, supportive footwear.
  • Be sure to warm up and cool down from exercise for a least 5 minutes.
  • Know your limits. Be realistic with the goals you are trying to achieve and how quickly you can achieve them!

Researchers have found that physiotherapy is a very effective short and long-term treatment for patellofemoral pain.  Call us on 9518 0722 to make an appointment or to ask to speak to a physiotherapist if you would like to ask further questions. Contact Janette for more information at or call reception on 9518 0722 to make an appointment.

Janette O’Toole

Janette O’Toole

Principle Physiotherapist
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