How to Treat and Prevent Runner’s Knee

female runner suffering from knee pain

Runners knee can affect anyone, from beginner runners who are just starting out to elite athletes trying to achieve their next personal best.

If you’re looking for practical solutions for relieving and avoiding this common overuse running injury, then you’re in the right place.

Today I’m going to share with you a simple step-by-step runners knee injury treatment and prevention program that can help put a stop to the condition for good.

By the end of this post you will know all you need about:

  • The exact definition of runners knee and its symptoms, and causes,
  • The best treatment options for runner’s knee,
  • How to get back safely to running after runners knee, and
  • The right preventative measures you can take so you no longer have to endure another (or your first) runner’s knee nightmare.

So are you excited? Then let’s get the ball rolling

Runner’s Knee Explained

Standing for a number of conditions affecting the knee, such as Patellar Tendinitis, Chondromalacia Patella, and Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, or PFPS for short, Runner’s knee is a general term that’s been used to describe pain and tenderness around and/or below the kneecap.

PFPS is the most Common

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (what a mouthful!), is the most common form of runner’s knee, accounting for about 20 percent of all running injuries, according to study.

Note: This whole post is mainly focused on patellofemoral pain syndrome.

In future posts, I’ll be dealing other conditions affecting the knee.

That’s why in this post, I’ll be using the terms PFPS and runner’s knee interchangeably, but please keep in mind that they are not the same thing.

Runners Knee Symptoms

The primary symptom is mild pain around, and below the top of the kneecap, typically toward the center of the back of the knee where the kneecap and thighbone meet.

The pain is, in most cases, mild at the first stages and may be only felt during running (or while doing other high impact exercises), but the pain becomes increasingly more intense not only during running but also after a workout.

Since the knee is a joint—Read: it moves around a lot—pinpointing the exact painful spot can prove difficult.

Nevertheless, by and large, Runner’s Knee is described as an aching pain behind and/or around the kneecap.

To make sure you actually have PFPS, you may need to visit a doctor to give you a thorough physical exam.

In some cases, X-rays and MRIs—Magnetic Resonance Imaging)—and other tests are needed for a complete assessment.

But in most cases, if you are a runner, and you started experiencing the above symptoms, rest assured that you have runner’s knee, and it’s time to step back from running and treat the condition before you do more damage to the cartilage.

You may also experience swelling and/or popping or cracking sensations in the knee.

Additional Resource – Can you run again after knee replacement

Runners Knee – The Injury Process

At the root level, runners knee develops when the patella (the kneecap) tracks incorrectly over the femoral groove, which a groove in the thighbone—as you use your knee.

Under normal conditions, the patella rests in the femoral groove and glides effortlessly up and down as you bend and straighten your knee.

But when the patella is misaligned—or tracking out of its normal range— it can irritate the nerves around the kneecap and damage the cartilage beneath the patella, leading to knee pain and eventually, runners knee.

Not Just Runners

As I have already stated, Runners’ Knee is the most common overuse injury among runners, but it can also strike any athlete in a variety of fields—especially sports that require plenty of cutting and sharp lateral movements, such as skiing, basketball, and tennis, or any type of sport that’s arduous activity on the legs.

Runners Knee Causes

Pinpointing a single cause of runner’s knee may prove elusive.

There are so many factors that can lead to the condition.

Here are some of the causes:

Overuse. This is the most common cause.

The repetitive high impact nature of running—and other high impact activities that are strenuous on the knees—can irritate the nerves around kneecap and damage the tendons.

Misalignment. When the patella—kneecap—is slightly out of its correct position—in other words it’s out of alignment—running and other high impact activities that require a lot knee bending and twisting can wear down the cartilage of the kneecap, leading to pain and damage to the joints.

Muscle weakness. Muscle imbalances in the legs can also lead to the condition.

Weak glutes, hip abductors, and quadriceps muscles can reduce support and stability around the knees, which forces the kneecap to track out of alignment.

Muscle tightness. Tight hamstrings and calf muscles can put pressure on the knee, resulting in misalignment of the kneecap, thus increasing kneecap friction and pain.

Add to this the repetitive high impact nature of running and you have a recipe for runners knee.

Foot problems. If you have flat feet—also known as fallen arches or overpronation—this anatomical condition can overstretch the muscles and tendons of your legs, resulting in knee pain and irritation.

An unusual foot position forces the foot to roll inwards which significantly changes the way the forces go through the knee

Direct trauma. This is when you receive a direct trauma to the knee, such like a blow or a fall.

The shock impact can dislocate the kneecap, or even move it out of place, forcing it to mal-track over the femoral groove.

How to Treat Runner’s Knee

If you have runners knee, then there is no perfect answer to when your knee will be healed.

Nevertheless, to speed up the healing process, do the following.

Stop Running

This is obvious.

Stop doing anything, including running and other high impact exercises, that leads to knee pain, but feel free to do as much exercise as you can do pain-free.

Take as many recovery days (or weeks) as you need.

If you don’t want to stop exercising, then opt for cross training activities with minimum impact on the knee.

Join a yoga class, strength train or join a aqua jogging class.

Just because you have runners knee don’t mean that you should fall off the training wagon, and turn into a couch potato.

Ice your Knee

Ice therapy can help you assuage pain and reduce the swelling.

Do it for 10 to 15 minutes three to four times per day until the pain is gone.

Use cold packs or ice wrapped in a towel.

Compress The Knee

Support the injured knee by using sleeves, straps or an elastic bandage to accelerate the healing process and reduce pain.

Elevate your Knee

Another measure you can take is to keep the knee raised up higher then you chest level by elevating it on a pillow when you are sitting or lying down.

Take Anti-inflammatory Pills

I will only recommend that you take pills if the pain was too much to bear.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, like Aleve, Advil, or most commonly Ibuprofen, will help with the swelling and the pain—especially if you needed more pain relief.

Just be careful. These drugs—like any other drug—have a dark side.

They can boost the risk of bleeding and ulcers—only used when your doctor says so or in cases of severe pain.

See a Doctor

In case your knee did not get well with the above steps, and the pain persists, then you may need to see a physician and have a professional examine your knee for a thorough medical evaluation.

In most cases, runners knee can be easily treated provided that you spot it early on and take the necessary action steps on the spot.

Severe Runners Knee Cases

In some severe cases of runner’s knee, the above steps may not help as much.

So what to do then?

Well, severe cases of the runner may need immediate surgery to fix the damage.

A surgeon could take out the injured cartilage or mend the position of the patella.

Hopefully, you will never have to endure severe cases of runner’s knee.

This condition—and most other running injuries—can be easily treated—when spotted at the right time and before they get any worse—and with the implementation of the right preventative strategies.

Additional resource – Your guide to ITBS

How to Get Back Running after Runner’s Knee

Here are the three keys to return safely to running after runner’s knee

Take your Time

Returning back to running, of course, will depend on how severe you damaged your knee.

Thus, it’s hard to guess how much recovery time you will need, especially when you put into consideration the biomechanical causes of the condition.

You cannot fix your muscles imbalances or running mechanics overnight.

So this cannot be rushed up. No one can

For instance, you may only need a few days off if you spot runners’ knee early, but if you have been running through pain for a while, you may need a lot longer.

But as a general guideline, full recovery from runner’s knee can take from four to eight weeks (or even more in severe cases) of no irritating activities—including running and other activities that require a lot of knee bending and twisting.

To stay on the safe side, opt for cross-training activities that don’t aggravate the pain and require minimum knee twisting and effort.

Take up aqua jogging, swimming, and the like.

And if a cross-training activity leads to knee pain, you shouldn’t be doing it.

The same approach applies for other knee injuries such as ITBS and patellar tendonitis.

Restart Slowly

Depending on how long you were out of the running field, it will take you to get back to running the way you used to.

A loss of cardio base and stamina is expected after a moderate layoff—even for just a couple of weeks.

Restart your running engine carefully and slowly.

Don’t force it.

Adopt a beginner’s runner mindset.

Fix the Root-Cause

Whether the root cause of your injury was biomechanical or any other cause, you will need to continue on working on it until it poses no future threats.

So please keep in mind that if you don’t strive to gradually fix the root-cause, it won’t just repair itself.

That was my mistake.

And please don’t repeat my mistake.

Additional Resource – Overpronation vs Underpronation



Groin Strains Unveiled: Symptoms, Treatments, and Prevention for Runners

Stop Groin Strains While Running

Picture this: It was just another sunny day on the beach with friends, and we decided to kick around a soccer ball for some fun.

Little did I know that a few kicks later, I’d find myself sidelined with an excruciating pain in my upper thigh. That’s right, I pulled a groin muscle out there on the sand, and it wasn’t pretty!

But you know what they say, every cloud has a silver lining. During those weeks of recovery, I delved deep into the world of groin strains.

Today, I’m here to share the insights I’ve gathered – from symptoms to treatments and even prevention tips – all to help you conquer that nagging inner thigh pain.

So, if you’ve been through the same discomfort or want to stay one step ahead, keep reading.!

Groin Strains In Runners – The Injury Process

Imagine this: you’re out on the soccer field, the game’s in full swing, and you’re giving it your all.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, you feel a sharp pain in your inner thigh, like a lightning bolt striking. That, my friends, is the dreaded groin strain.

A groin strain occurs when those adductor muscles, those connecting your pelvis and thighbone, decide to throw a tantrum. It’s like they’re saying, “Hey, we’ve had enough!” And the result? Excruciating inner thigh pain and some unwelcome swelling.

Now, let’s talk about culprits.

Overuse and neglect a proper warm-up are the chief instigators behind these painful groin-pull injuries. It’s like asking your car to go from 0 to 60 without letting the engine warm up first – not a great idea, right?

But here’s the kicker – groin strains are like the hidden gem of sports injuries, accounting for only about 5 percent of all cases. They’re not that common among runners, but when they strike, oh boy, they can be brutal.

While runners may not be the most frequent visitors to Groin Strain Central, this injury is a regular occurrence among athletes who do a lot of pivoting and direction-shifting.

Think martial artists, soccer and hockey players, skiers, and even Olympic weightlifters. It’s like their inner thighs are on a rollercoaster of twists and turns.

Now, here’s the clincher – not all groin strains are created equal. Some are as mild as a gentle breeze on a summer day, while others can feel like a full-blown tornado tearing through your inner thigh.

Symptoms of Groin Strains in Runners

Alright, let’s talk symptoms. Picture this: you’re going about your day, maybe on a leisurely stroll, or perhaps you’re trying to climb a few stairs. Suddenly, bam!

It feels like you’ve been hit by a bolt of lightning right in your groin area. Not exactly the surprise you were hoping for, right?

This sudden and sharp pain in your groin is the hallmark symptom of a groin strain. It’s like your inner thigh is staging a protest. But that’s not all – it can hit you right in the center of the muscle belly or even higher.

It’s like your muscles are having a little internal tug-of-war, and nobody’s winning.

But wait, there’s more drama to this injury. You might notice some rapid swelling like your body’s trying to inflate a balloon in there.

That’s followed by some lovely bruising and tenderness in your groin and along the inside of your thigh. It’s like your body’s way of saying, “Hey, remember that soccer game? Here’s a little reminder.”

Now, here are some detective skills for you. If you’re trying to diagnose this injury, pay attention to a few telltale signs.

First, is the pain worse when you bring your legs together? It’s like your muscles are telling you, “Nope, not happening.”

Next, notice if the pain amps up when you raise your knee. You know, things like walking, climbing stairs, or, heaven forbid, running. It’s like your body’s giving you a big red stop sign.

And here’s the kicker – some folks experience a rather theatrical snapping or popping feeling during the injury. It’s like your inner thigh decided to perform its own drum solo, followed by a symphony of intense pain.

Treating Groin Pain After Running

In most cases, a groin strain will usually heal on its own.

However, to speed the healing, you can do the following:


Now, I’m not a mind reader, but I can tell you that how much recovery you need depends on a few factors, like how badly your groin muscle got itself into trouble.

Mild Groin Pulls:

If you’ve got a mild case of the “ouchies,” you’re in luck. With proper rest, therapy, and some quality stretch and strength work, you could be back on your feet in about 2 to 4 weeks. That’s right, it’s a bit like a brief vacation from your regular running routine.

Serious Business:

Now, if your injury is giving you the full dramatic treatment, it might take a bit longer to recover – we’re talking two to three months or even more, especially if you’ve had surgery. That’s the extended version of the recovery story, but don’t worry; it’s not the end of the world.

Rest Days Are Your BFFs:

As a general rule, take as many rest days as you need during your recovery, but don’t even think about cutting it shorter than a week. Your body needs time to heal and regenerate, so be patient.

Icing It Down:

Grab yourself an ice pack or even a bag of frozen peas (yep, they work wonders too). Apply it to your injured thigh for about 15 to 20 minutes. But don’t stop there; you can do this ice therapy three to four times a day.  Keep up the icing routine as long as you feel pain and tenderness. Think of it as your personal cool-down session after a workout, but for your injured thigh.

Compress it

A little compression goes a long way in easing pain and reducing swelling. You can wear a compression support or apply a specialized groin strapping. These not only help with pain but also protect your precious thigh from further injury.

Tape It Right:

For added support, you can use an elastic bandage or opt for special precut groin tape like the Scrip Spidertech Tape. It’s like giving your thigh a supportive hug during the healing process.

Take Anti-inflammatory Painkillers

When the pain is playing hardball, you’ve got some trusty options in your corner. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pills like Aleve, Advil, or Motrin can be your go-to team players. They help reduce pain and inflammation for up to a week after the injury.

Here’s the downside. While medication does indeed help, don’t overdo it. Use them sparingly and never let them take control. You want relief, not a new addiction!

Additional reading – How to Avoid Running Injury

Stretch it

Stretching is your secret weapon for a speedy recovery. Target those key muscles: the adductors, hamstrings, quads, glutes, hip flexors, and lower abdominals. But remember, don’t go all-out right away – slow and gentle is the way to go.

Pain-Free Zone:

Pain is your red flag. If you feel it, hit the brakes! Stretch only as long as it’s pain-free. You don’t want to stir up trouble.

Heal Like a Pro:

Stretching does wonders. It relaxes those muscles, keeps scar tissue at bay, and gets the blood flowing. Think of it as your recovery superhero!

Daily Dose:

Make it a habit. A couple of stretches a day in the early stages of your rehab will keep you on track

Here are the 3 stretches you need.

Standing Adductor stretch

The Inner Thigh Stretch

The Wall Sit Hamstring Stretch

Strength Training

Strengthening those thigh muscles, especially the adductors, is a must for your comeback. Weak muscles are like an open invitation for reinjury, and we’re not having that!

So, make strength training your BFF. But keep in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are strong muscles. Start slow with static or isometric exercises. Then, level up to dynamic strength moves using a resistance band. Once you’ve got some muscle under your belt, go for those runner-specific strength workouts to up your game in the lower body.

What’s more?

Remember to listen to your body. Pain is your body’s SOS signal. If it hurts, back off and give those muscles some downtime. Rushing things here? Not a great idea – unless you’re aiming for trouble!

Here are the three strength exercises you need.

The Isometric hip flexion

Straight Leg Raises

Isometric abduction

Is it Ok to Run With a Groin Strain?

Avoid hitting the pavement with a groin strain. Running when you’ve got this injury, especially if it’s messing with your running form, isn’t a wise choice.

Instead, follow the treatment options shared above and consider low-impact cardio exercises like swimming, biking, and strength training to stay in shape.

When Can I Start Running After A Groin Strain?

So, when can you lace up your running shoes again after dealing with a pesky groin strain? Well, the answer depends on your recovery progress. Once you can comfortably walk and jog without pain, you’re on the right track. However, don’t rush it. The return to running after a groin strain is a gradual process.

The timeline varies for each individual, depending on the severity of the injury and the pace of your recovery. Generally, it may take around 2 weeks or more before you can fully resume your previous running routine.

Remember, everyone heals at their own pace. Start running again during your recovery phase if you can do so without experiencing any pain. Avoid jumping straight into intense workouts like hill repeats or sprint intervals. Instead, ease into it with slow and pain-free jogging.

Once you can comfortably jog for 20 to 30 minutes without discomfort, you can gradually increase your intensity. Be vigilant for any signs of tenderness or pain, and if they reappear, take a step back from running.

How To Prevent of Groin Pain While Running

Here are some of the measures you need to take to prevent groin strains over the long haul.


Preventing groin strains as a runner is essential, and it begins with a smart warm-up routine. Here’s how to do it:

Start your runs with a 5 to 10-minute session of slow jogging. This gradual buildup allows your muscles and tendons to prepare for more intense activity. It’s like giving your body a gentle wake-up call.

If your run involves intense activities like sprinting or hill repeats, take your warm-up a step further. Incorporate dynamic warm-up exercises to activate your muscles and prime your body for the demanding workout ahead.

Here is the dynamic warm-up you will need.

Stretch and Strengthen Regularly

I hate to sound like a broken record but proper flexibility and strength are crucial for injury-free running. Groin strains are not an exception.

Stretching keeps your muscles and tendons flexible and strong. When they’re in peak condition, they can better handle the demands of running without being prone to strains and sprains.

Avoid Overstretching: Tight muscles can easily be pushed beyond their natural range of motion during a run. This can lead to painful sprains and strains. Stretching helps maintain your muscles’ optimal length, reducing the risk of injury.

Strength Training: Complement your stretching routine with strength training. This builds a resilient body that can withstand the high-impact nature of running. Strong muscles provide better support and stability.

Groin Pain In Runners – Conclusion

See treating and preventing groin strains while running is not that hard once you learn how to do it right.

In the meantime, thank you for reading my post.

Feel free to leave your comments and questions below.

David D