Runner’s Knee: What Causes It and How To Treat It

by Apr 3, 2018Anatomy, Injuries

How to treat Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?

Runner’s Knee, also known as Patellofemoral pain syndrome is a broad term to describe pain around the anterior patella (kneecap) where your patella meets with your thigh bone (femur). This joint is called the patellofemoral joint. It is commonly called runner’s knee or jumpers knee because it is more common in athletes who do a lot of running or jumping, but it can occur in non athletes as well. Pain usually occurs in the knee after activities that involve jumping, sitting, squatting or bending the knee as well as sitting with the knee bent for long periods of time. Pain from patellofemoral syndrome is usually gradual.

Patellofemoral Pain Runners Knee

The red markings on the right image, indicate the location of pain for people with patellofemoral syndrome, caused by improper tracking of the patella.

What are the Causes of Runner’s Knee / Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?


The main causes of patellofemoral pain syndrome / runner’s knee are:

  • Overuse Injuries

  • Malalignment or Tracking of the Patella

  • Muscle Weakness or Imbalances

  • Poor posture or weak hip muscles

  • Improper exercise technique

  • Sudden changes in footwear, playing surface or training volume.

When we bend and straighten our knees the patella normally glides smoothly along a grove on the femur or thigh bone. Overtime, poor sliding of the patella along this groove can cause irritation and pain, as patella will rub against different bones or structures that it is not suppose to come in contact with.  The causes of patellofemoral syndrome listed above effect how the patella is aligned and moves. Damage to the patella from patellofemoral syndrome may lead to other injuries related to the patella bone. Other associated conditions often include; chondromalacia patellae, patellofemoral arthralgia, patellalgia, anterior knee pain, and patellar tendinitis. Each patient with knee pain, presents with a different cause of injury, and therefor treatment must be highly individualized to the patient. 

Who is Most at Risk?

  • Younger Athletes | Patellofemoral pain syndrome most commonly effects young adults and adolescents

  • Women | Women are more likely to develop patellofemoral pain syndrome due to their wider pelvis, which can place greater strain on the knee joint.

  • Certain Sports | Sports involving high levels of running and jumping increase the risk of developing patellofemoral syndrome

Treatment at Westcoast SCI

The first stage of treatment will be to reduce inflammation of the knee, and then restore full passive range of motion and muscle length. Next your physiotherapist will teach you specific exercises to help improve range of motion, strength, and endurance. It is especially important to focus on strengthening and stretching your quadriceps since these muscles are the main stabilizers of your kneecap. Core exercises may also be recommended to strengthen the muscles in your abdomen and lower back. Additionally, exercises to strengthen the hip might be recommended to help improve the alignment of the patella. Your physiotherapist may also use manual treatment or other treatment modalities as necessary. 

If you have persistent knee pain and are unsure of the cause, we can help! 


Faizullin, I., & Faizullina, E. (2015). Effects of balance training on post-sprained ankle joint instability. International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine, 27(S1). doi:10.3233/jrs-150707