Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments (1)

What To Do About Runner’s Knee (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome)


My left knee hurts. When I put weight on it with my leg bent, like when I get out of the car, I feel a dull pain in my knee. My doctor and physical therapist have given me a diagnosis of patellofemoral pain syndrome, also known as “runner’s knee” or patellar knee-tracking syndrome. Simply put, my kneecap doesn’t run smoothly up and down its track—a groove called the trochlea.

Anyone can get patellofemoral pain syndrome, but for some reason it is more common in women than men—especially in mid-life women who’ve been running for many years. The problem, say researchers who just published a study in the journal Gait and Posture, is that lots of “mature” women develop alignment problems with their knees. The researchers compared younger female runners to older female runners and found misalignment of the knee to be much more common in the older women. Some knees sagged inward, others bowed outward or were rotated.

When the alignment is off, 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.

My physical therapist recommended that I support my kneecap by strengthening my quadriceps (thigh) muscles and that I stretch the iliotibial band, a long band of connective tissue that runs from the knee to the hip. When that tendon is too tight, it pulls the kneecap off to one side. I also decided to vary my exercise routine. I haven’t stopped running, but I did cut back to three days a week. On the other days, I do yoga, weight training, or bicycle—anything to cut down on the repetitive force that running places on my knees.

You can look up this condition and other common knee-pain problems in Harvard’s Special Health Report, Knees and Hips: A troubleshooting guide to knee and hip pain. It describes the causes of different kinds of knee and hip pain and the array of treatments available. It also helps evaluate when the problem has become severe enough to warrant a knee or hip replacement. That’s something I hope to put off as long as possible.

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

You may also like these posts

    None Found

Read comments »

One Response to “What To Do About Runner’s Knee (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome)”

  1. Jada stites says:

    This has helped alot I am currently 14 and diagnosed with runners knee and I have to do exercises and it hurt badly when I did it so I have to go back for a MRI to see if I need surgery I have another friend that had surgery on hers at the age 13 just lay down and but ice and aspirin and rest it

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »