Undoubtedly one of the most common running ailments, runner's knee or patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), can hamper your training or leave you completely sidelined.
The pain associated with runner's knee is located under, slightly above or below the kneecap. It generally worsens when athletes run uphill, downhill or up and down stairs. A popping sensation is sometimes audible. In the worst cases, the knee may swell.
A term used to describe a number of knee issues, runner's knee often occurs because of an increase in mileage. While some harriers will experience sporadic pain, others have problems nearly every time they add miles. The condition can also be related to poor running form and core strength.
"A lot of these injuries result from motion or mobility problems in the hip or low back," explains Dr. Aaron LeBauer, a physical therapist based in Greensboro, North Carolina. "Or it can be an instability issue because of lack of core engagement. If you have an imbalance that causes the leg to be unstable, it may be a hip control issue."
Indeed, strength and mobility imbalances will have a greater effect on the body over increased mileage, resulting in issues like runner's knee. The dilemma is you often won't know you have these imbalances until your knee starts to nag you. At this point, it becomes important to back off and identify where the injury originated.
"The biggest problem is that people don't listen to their bodies and they run through pain," says LeBauer. "Running through sharp, shooting pain just makes the issue worse; [runners who do this] end up in my office because they keep running rather than resting or seeking treatment earlier."
Runner's Knee Treatment and Prevention
When it comes to treatment, LeBauer says it is important to trace back to the root cause of the pain, and focus on correcting it.