The Betterment Project

How To Help Deal With the Pain From Runner's Knee

Runner’s knee is a term used to describe a group of conditions that cause pain around the kneecap. 


Although the condition is often easy to diagnose and treat, it can still require you to dedicate a significant portion of time to recovery. For the athletes amongst us, this can seriously hinder our goals. 


In this guide from ASYSTEM, we will go over ways to make sure that the condition affects your athletic performance as little as possible.


Read on to discover what causes runner’s knee, how it is diagnosed and treated, and what you can do to deal with it at home. 

 

What Is Runner’s Knee?

Runner’s knee — also known as anterior knee pain, patellofemoral pain syndrome, chondromalacia patella, or “jumper’s knee” — refers to pain surrounding the kneecap. 


It usually starts as mild pain below the kneecap present only during running — or another high-impact activity. Over time, it may progress in intensity, radiating to a larger portion of the knee. In addition, the pain may begin to present constantly — even in the absence of physical activity. 


Runner’s knee is one of the most common running injuries. It affects up to 25% of male runners and up to 30% of female runners. 


The reason for the higher prevalence rate in women may have to do with the physiology of women, who tend to have wider hips. In theory, this can place greater stress on the knees, which increases the risk of injury. 


As the name suggests, runner’s knee is common amongst runners. However, athletes of any sport can experience the condition, with any activity from cycling to skiing to even walking increasing the risk of runner’s knee. 

 

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Runner’s Knee?

If you’re an athlete who engages in high-impact sports, quickly identifying the symptoms of runner’s knee can help you get treatment quickly. The faster you seek treatment, the lower your chances of complications. 


Here are some signs and symptoms to look out for: 


  • Pain around the kneecap: This is an obvious sign of runner’s knee, which may vary depending on your circumstances. You may feel the pain only when you’re running or jumping. Conversely, you may feel the pain when sitting for a long time with bent knees. Either way, knee pain can be an indication of runner’s knee. 
  • Cracking knee joints: If you hear a cracking sound when you bend and straighten your knee, you may be experiencing be a more subtle sign of runner’s knee. This symptom is caused by the wearing away of cartilage. On its own, it’s not necessarily a cause for concern. However, if it’s accompanied by swelling, it may be time to seek treatment. 
  • Any type of discomfort: Even if you don’t feel clear-cut pain in your knees, any type of discomfort can be a sign that something is off. If running, squatting, sitting, or any other physical movement suddenly affects your knees, it may indicate runner’s knee. 

Of course, runner’s knee has certain symptoms in common with other conditions. For this reason, make sure to avoid self-diagnosing. Instead, see your doctor to get to the true source of your pain and discomfort. 

 

What Causes Runner’s Knee?

Quite simply, runner’s knee is caused by excess impact to the knee. This can be caused by chronic overuse — such as excessive training without rest — or acute physical trauma.


However, not everyone is equally predisposed to runner’s knee. Certain risk factors can increase your chances of developing the condition. 


Here are some of the top risk factors for this condition: 


  • Underdeveloped muscles: If your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexor muscles are not strong, they likely won’t be able to hold your kneecap in place sufficiently. This can cause the kneecap to move around during physical activity, which can cause painful friction. The less you strength train, the higher your chances of having underdeveloped muscles. 
  • Inflammation: Systemic inflammation — that which affects your whole body — can increase your chances of developing knee pain. While there are various causes of inflammation, the most common culprits involve poor diet, sleep deprivation, and psychological stress
  • Cadence: Your cadence — or the number of steps you take per minute — can directly affect how much stress you put on your knees. In general, the higher your cadence, the less impact your knees take from every time your feet hit the ground. 

However, changing your cadence overnight can put undue stress on other body parts. As such, make sure to introduce any new changes to your running techniques slowly.


  • Footwear: The shoes you wear while performing any physical activity — especially a high-impact sport like running — should provide arch supports. For instance, if you have a high arch, the running shoes you wear should have extra padding to accommodate this. Failing to wear the right footwear can seriously increase how much stress your joints are under. 
  • Flat feet: Having flat feet can increase your chances of developing runner’s knee. While there isn’t much you can do to change the physiology of your feet, investing in the right pair of sneakers can significantly cut down your risk. For help choosing the right pair for you, consult your local athletic store. 

How Is Runner’s Knee Treated?

Once you present to your healthcare provider with signs and symptoms of runner’s knee, they will perform a series of tests in order to determine which condition you have — after all, runner’s knee refers to a series of conditions. 


In most cases, a manual exam may be enough. In other cases, an X-ray may be necessary before making a diagnosis.


After you receive a diagnosis, your doctor will create a custom treatment for your specific case. For mild or moderate cases, an at-home regimen with the acronym RICE — rest, ice, compression, elevation — may be enough to heal your injury:


  • Rest: Your doctor might ask you to stay off your feet for several days to give your knees a break. This will keep the problem from getting worse and give your body a chance to repair itself — which it can do quite effectively when given a chance. 
  • Ice: Applying an ice pack to your knee can help to reduce some of the inflammation responsible for runner’s knee pain. Applying ice for up to 20 minutes several times per day is generally recommended. 
  • Compression: Wrapping your knee with an elastic bandage can restrict some of the swelling and inflammation that accompanies runner’s knee. 
  • Elevation: Thanks to gravity, keeping your knee below heart level can increase swelling. For this reason, your doctor may recommend that you elevate your knee above your chest while you heal from your injury.  

If the pain is severe, your doctor can recommend some over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). Typically, this can include aspirin or ibuprofen. 


However, some studies show that NSAIDs may actually interfere with your body’s natural healing response. Unless you absolutely need it, over-the-counter pain relievers might be best avoided. 

 

How Can I Prevent Runner’s Knee?

Once the acute inflammation, swelling, and pain have subsided, you can begin your normal physical activity again — with some modifications. It may be helpful to tape your knee to wear shoe inserts (or orthotics) to provide extra support. 


To prevent your risk of knee problems in the future, there are several strategies you can implement.


In the first place, it’s important to keep your supporting muscles strong. Having well-developed leg muscles will provide your knees with the extra support they need to keep from moving around and thus, causing pain. So, doing plenty of strengthening exercises might help you ward off runner’s knee.


If you are overweight, getting down to a healthy weight may significantly decrease how much stress your knees experience during high-impact activities. In addition, weight loss is associated with a reduction in systemic inflammation, which can support your knee health. 


Last, it is always recommended to make sure that you follow best practices — whether you’re running or engaging in another physical activity. Warm up before your workout, wear the right footwear, and use the correct running form to prevent misalignment. This should go a long way in keeping your knees stress-free. 

 

What Can Help Runner’s Knee Naturally?

Sometimes, despite our doctor’s recommendations, runner’s knee may persist. This is not only uncomfortable but can seriously hinder our fitness goals.


In this case, you can turn to natural supplements to provide you with pain relief from runner’s knee. ASYSTEM’s Radical Relief Gell Roll On contains clinically-proven ingredients such as CBD, menthol, and methyl salicylate to provide you with a topical solution for pain relief.


You can further enhance your body’s healing response with ASYSTEM’s Radical Relief Anti-Inflammatory Pills. This formula contains anti-inflammatory ingredients such as CBD and Turmacin®, which have been clinically proven to work from the inside out. 

A combination of ASYSTEM’s topical and ingestible supplements can give you the relief you need to deal with pain from runner’s knee. 

 

Takeaways

Although runner’s knee is often easy to diagnose and treat, not everyone is able to get rapid relief. This can seriously get in the way of our fitness goals, our athletic performance, and many other aspects of daily life.


To support your body’s healing response, ASYSTEM’s Pain Relief System contains a variety of select ingredients that have been clinically proven to work. Our supplements can help stop pain at its source for relief from runner's knee, healing you without harm.


Our Sources: 

Incidence and determinants of lower extremity running injuries in long distance runners: a systematic review | NCBI 

Flat Feet Are Associated With Knee Pain and Cartilage Damage in Older Adults | NCBI

Do NSAIDs Really Interfere with Healing after Surgery? | NCBI 

Weight loss is a critical factor to reduce inflammation | NCBI 

Meet our Experts

This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.

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