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Runner’s Knee - Symptoms, Causes, Treatments & More

This page has been medically reviewed by David Gershkovich PT, DPT, Founder & Clinical Director at Riser Physical Medicine in New York City.

Runner’s Knee

A significant percentage of all runners experience Runner's Knee at some point in their running career. It is a very common injury that occurs gradually and worsens slowly over time. It can take several weeks to recover fully from Runner’s Knee, but it is possible, given enough rest and the right treatment.

What is Runner’s Knee?

Runner’s Knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), is a condition characterized by a general pain often felt around or behind the kneecap (patella). It is a general term that describes the pain one feels when affected by any of several knee conditions.

Contrary to what the name implies, however, running is not the only cause of Runner’s Knee. Even non-runners are susceptible to Runner’s Knee. It is also much more common in women because of their unique bone structure.


The most common symptom of Runner’s Knee is a dull ache around or behind the kneecap. This pain comes on gradually and worsens slowly over time. The pain can intensify when the affected knee bears extra weight, such as when going up or down the stairs, running, and even when getting up to stand from a sitting position.


  • Dull ache whenever weight is placed on the knee

  • Grinding or popping feeling when bending or extending the knee

  • Swelling around the knee area

  • Instability, stiffness, or weakness in the knee


To diagnose Runner’s Knee, patients may have to undergo physical therapy evaluation, MD diagnosis, or movement screening.

We recommend getting started by contacting your physician who can help determine the best course of action.

At Riser Physical Medicine in NYC, we do a comprehensive Runner's Analysis to determine which parts of the running cycle may be faulty and therefore causing pain.


Though the name may imply so, Runner’s Knee is not only caused by running. It is very common in runners (as much as 15% of all runners suffer from it), but even non-runners are at risk of contracting the condition. Cyclists, hikers, bikers, dancers, and weightlifters are all known to suffer from Runner’s Knee.

Possible causes:

  • Knee overuse. When the knee joint repetitively suffers high levels of stress (such as when running, doing sports, or manual labor), one becomes susceptible to overuse injuries such as Runner’s Knee.

  • A direct hit to the knee, such as a fall or a blow

  • Misalignment. When the bones from the hips to the ankles aren’t aligned correctly, the weight distribution of the legs doesn’t work as well as it should. For women, their bone structure causes them to have wider hips, which results in misalignment, making them more susceptible to Runner’s Knee compared to men.

  • Foot conditions. Some foot conditions, such as hypermobile feet, overpronation, and fallen arches, can affect the way you walk, which can lead to knee pain.

  • Weak thigh muscles. The front thigh muscles (quadriceps) are responsible for keeping your kneecap in place when you bend or extend your knees. Without proper exercise, the thigh muscles may not be able to support the kneecap, which can result in Runner’s Knee.

  • Weak hip muscles. When the hip muscles are weak, the hips may rotate internally, causing the kneecap to slide up and to the side, away from its proper position. The knee may try to compensate for the weak hip muscles, which can overwork it, resulting in knee pain.

Because muscle strength is such a huge factor in Runner’s Knee, people who live inactive lifestyles (minimal or no physical activity) are most susceptible.


To alleviate pain and accelerate recovery from Runner’s Knee, patients may undergo the following treatments:

Choose Riser Physical in NYC

At Riser, we’re committed to helping you achieve a healthier, happier, pain-free, and more active You.

Our team at Riser Physical specializes in treating musculoskeletal issues. At Riser, we will help you understand your condition and create a treatment plan that’s right for your needs.

At Riser we provide rehab and therapy options for patients looking for non-surgical, minimally-invasive treatments for their joint pain or muscle condition.

We have an amazing team of licensed and experienced physical therapists, chiropractors, pilates experts, pain management specialists, and acupuncturists who can help you get started on improving your quality of life.

If you work with us, you can expect an integrative treatment that is not only evidence-based, but also personal. We give special attention to each and every one of our patients and try to make each session better than the last.

Book an appointment

We offer treatment for Runner’s Knee at our offices in New York City.

If you’d like to get in touch with us for an appointment, you can call us at 646-661-2181, email us at, or click the button below to book an appointment.

Runner’s Knee FAQs

Is it okay to run with Runner's Knee?

We recommend that you don’t run if you’re feeling pain in your knee. Running with Runner’s Knee could aggravate the condition and cause further pain. It’s best to rest the affected knee and perform only low-impact exercises if you must.

How long does Runner's Knee last?

With proper rest and exercise, it’s possible to recover fully from Runner’s Knee in 4 to 12 weeks. This can be a big problem for avid runners and athletes, and many are forced to take month-long breaks, but it’s important to let yourself recover in order to avoid aggravating the condition.

How do you prevent Runner’s Knee?

The best way to prevent Runner’s Knee is to regularly exercise the muscles around the knee using stretching and strengthening exercises — the hip and thigh muscles especially.

Do squats help Runner's Knee?

Yes, squats do help with Runner’s Knee. One of the main muscles worked by squats is the quadriceps, which plays a large role in keeping the kneecaps in place, thus preventing Runner’s Knee.

Can you fully recover from runner's knee?

Yes, it is possible to recover fully from Runner’s Knee. It can take 4 to 12 weeks for this to happen. Some people may consider this recovery time too long, but the best thing to do is to rest and perform low-impact exercises to accelerate recovery.


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