Common knee problems for runners

Written by harold e. sconiers
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Common knee problems for runners
Recognise symptoms of knee injuries to prevent persistent pain. (Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

There are many advantages to running on a regular basis. Consistent practice can improve your heart health, posture, mood and balance. However, as a runner, you may sometimes experience knee problems. A summary of the most common knee injuries faced can help you identify symptoms as they arise and take preventative action against future distress.

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Runners' knee

Also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, runners' knee is a common condition among athletes. It is marked by pain throughout or behind the kneecap, or patella. Patellofemoral pain syndrome generally occurs when the kneecap is derailed from its appropriate channel. If the quadriceps, or front thigh muscles, are weak, the slackly-held patella can easily shift off course, aggravating cartilage underneath. Runners' knee can be a temporary problem, or it may develop into a persistent condition. Placing the quadriceps under undue strain, while experiencing symptoms, can provoke painful flare-ups. This may be due to wearing shoes of poor quality, or running with an imbalanced stride. Runners' knee is often treated by elevation of the knee, intermittent application of ice and anti-inflammatory medication. In some cases, a doctor may prescribe a specific rehabilitation routine designed to realign the kneecap.


Chondromalacia occurs when cartilage within the joint softens. This can occur as a result of an incorrectly aligned kneecap or one that is used to excess or traumatised by injury. Under these conditions, the patella scrapes across the thigh bone and damages the cartilage underneath. This affliction is characterised by a dull ache within and around the knee. In most severe cases, cartilage can dwindle until the sufferer is walking virtually bone-on-bone. Self treating this condition at the onset may call for low-impact exercises that strengthen the quadriceps, such as swimming. Implementing elliptical machinery into the exercise routine may also help to strengthen the leg muscles without placing undue pressure upon the joints.


Tendonitis is an inflammation of the stringy tissue that connects muscle to bone. Excessive force or impact that is placed on the knee may cause tendons to stretch and swell. Runners with this condition will notice that the area where the tendon connects has become sore to the touch. A full tear of the patellar tendon is extremely painful and will render an individual incapable of bending or flexing the leg properly. Normally, tendonitis can be resolved by elevating the injury, applying ice frequently and taking anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen.

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