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Runner’s Knee: Teen Version



  • Runner’s knee is pain behind your kneecap caused by overuse of the knee in activities such as running, walking, jumping, or bicycling.
  • Treatment may include wearing a strap or knee brace, using shoe inserts, doing stretching and strengthening exercises, or sometimes surgery.
  • Warm-up exercises and stretching before activities can help prevent injuries. It also helps if you do exercises that strengthen your thigh muscles, and you wear the right type of shoes for your activities.


What is runner’s knee?

Runner’s knee is pain behind your kneecap (patella). Your kneecap fits into grooves in the end of your thighbone. With repeated bending and straightening of the knee, you can irritate the inside surface of your kneecap and cause pain.

What is the cause?

Runner’s knee can be caused by overuse of the knee in activities such as running, walking, jumping, or bicycling.

You are more likely to have runner’s knee if you have wide hips, weak thigh muscles, or if you are knock-kneed. If your foot flattens too much when you walk or run, it can also irritate the inside of your kneecap.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain behind your kneecap that gets worse when you bend, squat, kneel, run, or walk downhill or down stairs
  • Swelling around your knee
  • Snapping, popping, or grinding in your knee when you move it

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, activities, and medical history and examine you. Tests may include:

  • X-rays
  • MRI, which uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to show detailed pictures of your foot and leg
  • Ultrasound, which uses sound waves to show pictures of the tendons
  • CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to show detailed pictures of the tendons

How is it treated?

While you recover, you will need to change your sport or activity to one that does not make your condition worse. For example, try swimming instead of running.

You may need to wear a special strap or a knee brace that helps support and protect your knee while your knee heals. Special shoes or shoe inserts may also help.

Your healthcare provider may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to help you heal. Runner’s knee often lasts a long time and can come back after symptoms were better for a while. Doing the right kind of exercises is very important to help your knee heal. You may need physical therapy.

If rest, exercise, and self-care don’t relieve your symptoms, your healthcare provider may suggest surgery to remove pieces of damaged tissue or to put the kneecap in the better position to prevent symptoms.

How can I take care of myself?

To help the swelling and pain:

  • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth, on the area every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Keep your knee up on a pillow when you sit or lie down.
  • Take nonprescription pain medicine, such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, you should not take this medicine for more than 10 days.

Follow your healthcare provider's instructions, including doing exercises to help you recover. Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will get your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I help prevent runner’s knee?

Warm-up exercises and stretching before activities can help prevent injuries. You should also do exercises that strengthen your thigh muscles.

Try to keep a healthy weight. If you are overweight, lose weight. Losing some weight can reduce the stress on your joints.

Follow the safety rules for your work or sport and use protective equipment such as wearing the right type of shoes for your activities.

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2022.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2019-07-19
Last reviewed: 2018-10-23
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2022 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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