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How to Avoid Runner's Knee

Avoid Runner's Knee

If you are new to running you definitely want to be wary of developing runner's knee, an overuse injury that is twice as likely to occur in women than men. Known in the medical world as patellofemoral pain syndrome (PPFS), runner's knee causes pain in and around the knee cap (or patella). The pain is caused by tracking issues with the knee cap that irritate the bony groove the knee cap actually sits in. While there can be many reasons for this annoying and common problem that most often strikes newbies, it is most often caused by tight hamstrings and calves (the muscles in the back of the leg) coupled with weak quads (the muscle at the front of the thigh).

You don't need to avoid running to prevent runner's knee, but you should try to run on accommodating surfaces like dirt paths and asphalt, not concrete. Uneven terrain and hills can aggravate knee tracking problems, so be wary of hills if you are experiencing tenderness around your knee caps. Be proactive and strengthen your quads. And to see how, just read more.
Wall sits are an easy exercise that target the quads.

  • Stand with your back against a wall, placing your feet about two feet out in front of you. Feet should be hips distance apart.
  • Bending your knees, slide your back down the wall until your knees are at 90 degree angles. Your knee joints should be over your ankle joints, so you may need to inch your feet further from the wall to create proper alignment. Don't let your knees fall in on the midline of your body, or sway outwards.
  • Hold for one minute, do three reps.

Don't forget to stretch your hamstrings and your calves too.


Join The Conversation
baybelle baybelle 8 years
I've just started to run and I noticed that my knees were hurting more when I used an older pair of shoes (my regular ones got left at the gym). Am definitely going to get an only running pair really soon.
booglass booglass 8 years
Ugh. I have what appears to be runners knee but not from running. Just over use. Thank you for the article so I can be proactive about this.
prada08 prada08 8 years
oops... I meant to say Good luck. Thank God it's friday. lol :)
prada08 prada08 8 years
I think you could get some sort of strain in those areas from wearing improper or worn shoes that should be disposed. You know how it's hard to give those favorites up. But, seriously, my injury was due to wearing running shoes at dance class, cardio. Boot camp, long distance running not enough massage therapy. Trying to be super woman. :) I later learned that I had other shoes or heels that were not the best for my foot. Sandals were flip flops with no support. Cute but not the best for the feet at the time. I wear them now of course. My knee hurt a lot. My hips hurt and where stiff from overcompensating in my good leg to avoid the pain in the other. So, I brought a pair of earth shoes. My feet became my best friends. I incorporated yoga, Pilate's and swimming to start the process of healing after the severe pain began to become less inflamed. I would say walking the pool and sitting in the whirlpool contributed to the start of my healing with frequent ice packs and support knee wrap. try runners world site as well. They have good exercises to avoid injury like this one. But, all they do is RUN of course. :) Good look girlie. :) ciao
supercharger5150 supercharger5150 8 years
Is it possible to get runner's knee without running? Sorry if that's a stupid question, I just have constant knee pain in my right side- trying to figure out what it is.
prada08 prada08 8 years
OH wow Aburlock... I had an IT Band Problem for a year and a half. Every time I mention the IT band to a fellow runner or gym person they ask what it is and where it is at. It was so hard to get that leg back to normal. And you are absolutely correct. You can not bike or do the elliptical while the injury is in existence. Well, finally I have strength trained my legs back into good condition. It has been two months with no pain and i can finally perform a leg routine without cramps. I had lost all my muscle from not running or performing lower body activity a long length of time. I had to ice, elevate ,rest constantly. So, I feel your pain. I even brought these great earth shoes with the negative heel that enhances posture and proper pronation for the foot. Also, I threw away all shoes or sports shoes that had been worn out. I have running shoes for running only, cardio shoes for gym and fun tennis shoes for fun and style. :) Hey, we only get one pair of legs. We must take care them. :) ciao
aburlock aburlock 9 years
It's also really important to stretch your IT band-- the fascia that runs along the outside of your thigh, from hip to knee. Tight IT bands also cause PFS. And unfortunately, biking and using an elliptical won't spare you pain if you have IT band tightness. I have been dealing with extreme PFS over the past year. It's definitely not fun and I just wish I had stretched more to avoid the pain I've been in.
kia kia 9 years
I feel like I am reverting back to my volleyball and basketball conditioning in junior high lately. I had to do a ton of wall sits back in the day and have started them up again recently.
Hoaxerz Hoaxerz 9 years
Ham-glute raises are done by kneeling on a pad and anchoring your ankles (e.g. have a partner hold them), then slowly lowering your body toward the ground by contracting your hamstrings and glutes. Have your hands ready to catch yourself, and as you almost hit the ground, give a little push and raise yourself back up- make sure you're using your muscles not momentum for this part.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
Those wall squats are killer.
rivekkah rivekkah 9 years
When I went to an ortho with this issue I learned that women's outer quads typically are stronger, tending to pull our kneecaps outwards when we run. Strengthening the inner quad is a huge help in preventing or alleviating this problem. My ortho had a physical therapist give me stretches for the inner quad and it, along with an NSAID, have tremendously helped. I may still crunch and grind with every step I take, but at least I am no longer in pain. If anyone wants me to, I will gladly share the stretches I was given. :)
sunkissbabe sunkissbabe 9 years
Fit, I am definitely going to try this move!! I recently started running and I love it (now that I can actually handle it)
mdjaeda mdjaeda 9 years
Thanks for the stretch lrgoldman34--I'm sure I'll be doing this Monday.
Soniabonya Soniabonya 9 years
thanks for the info fit. now i know i should work on my quads.... should i do this before running or just any old time?
nancita nancita 9 years
I always love hearing more tips on how to prevent runner's knee, the bane of my running existence.
myerschick44 myerschick44 9 years
I've suffered from this for a long time and another tip is to stretch out your IT band. It's the tendon that runs along the outside of your thigh. I use a foam roller and in addition to strengthening my stabilizing muscles in my knees, it's helped tremendously.
saradee saradee 9 years
what are ham-glute raises? are they similar to the positioning of the yoga horse stance?
Hoaxerz Hoaxerz 9 years
Actually, women are so quad dominant that it's more important to strengthen their hamstrings to protect the knees. One of the best ways to do this are ham-glute raises; they're really difficult but pay off.
SkinnyMarie SkinnyMarie 9 years
Seriously JohnnyFit? A lot of knee problems are also hereditary, but thanks for calling me fat. I appreciate the compliment. I agree with Runningesq, please remove that poop.
runningesq runningesq 9 years
Um, Fit, can you delete the comment by JohnFit? It's blatant advertising.
sweet ! Thanks for all the tips. I just started having this problem last week. I'm not running for a bit, but only doing leg weights and some spinning classes. Once I feel better I'll go right back to running because I miss it!
gooniette gooniette 9 years
Thanks Fit. I've always wanted to be able to jog, but my knees keep me from doing it. Maybe after trying some strengthening and stretching exercises, they will feel better.
lrgoldman34 lrgoldman34 9 years
I've had this and I have two suggestions: One, as mentioned above, run on asphalt instead of concrete sidewalks -it's more forgiving (tho you wind up suckng down more exhaust from cars). Two, I've got an awesome stretch: lie on you left side, head supporter with left arm. Bend your right knee so your right food kicks back towards your butt and grab it with your right hand. Then, Take your left foot (which is currently against the ground) and move it up ON TOP of your right knee, pushing down gently. It really stetches out that bent knee...and you then flip around and repeat. It may hurt at first, but my PT said that's normal and will go away with practice. Good luck!
saradee saradee 9 years
biking or going on the elliptical are ways of avoiding the problem, but for those of us who enjoy our outdoor runs, fit's advice is completely helpful and practical.
SkinnyMarie SkinnyMarie 9 years
After years of running, and playing soccer, I have just started to develop this because I wasn't as religious with my stretching as I was in the past, plus my quads were losing their strength. I knew to get back on track with the stretching, but just recently read that the stronger your quads, the more aligned your knees are. I started doing some simple quad strengthening exercises (with low weights) at the gym and its 99% better.
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