Everyone occasionally experiences joint pain, but if one or both of your kneecaps hurts frequently, you may have patellofemoral [pa-TELL-O-femoral] pain syndrome, otherwise known as runner’s knee.
Don’t be fooled by the nickname: You don’t have to be a runner to develop this syndrome. It can be caused by other forms of exercise, by a blow to the knee or even by a misalignment of bones, muscle weakness, tightness or imbalances. Health care providers say it’s pretty common, and it affects twice as many women as men.
Symptoms of runner’s knee include pain behind the knee that becomes worse when bending the knee or going up or down stairs or hills, swelling around the knee or a feeling of popping.
For mild cases of runner’s knee, rest, ice packs and over-the-counter medicine may suffice to ease pain and discomfort. But if knee pain lasts for three weeks or more, or interferes with daily activities, visit a doctor to rule out other issues and determine how best to treat the condition. Physical therapy can help strengthen muscles and improve alignment to prevent knee problems. Other times an orthotic insert in the shoe might ease the knee pain, or it may be a matter of more rest and anti-inflammatory medication.
Just as strengthening exercises can help ease knee pain, they also can help prevent runner’s knee. Consider adding exercises that strengthen your core, hips and thighs. And if you participate in a particular sport that can leave you prone to runner’s knee, such as running or bicycling, consider doing a different activity once a week.
With a little help, you will have prevention or cure under your belt, and you will be back to running your life without knee pain.