As an athlete, you know that repetitive exercise can be tough on your joints. This is especially true for runners, as you are putting a tremendous amount of pressure on your lower body with every stride. It is no surprise that runners are at risk for injuries in their bones and joints, particularly the knees. If you think this might be the source of your discomfort, this information can help you shorten your runners knee recovery time and get back to the sport you love.

What is Runner's Knee?

The most common type of running-related injury is runner's knee, also referred to as patellofemoral pain syndrome. This pain is typically felt in the front of the knee or around the kneecap. There are several common symptoms that might indicate that you are suffering from runner's knee.

Dull Ache

Unlike an acute pain that might signal an injury to the ligament or the meniscus, the ache from a runner's knee is typically dull. The pain might be present in just one knee or felt in both. The degree of pain varies in each person, and could be relatively mild or very painful

Popping Sounds

Another symptom that some people with runner's knee present with is a popping sound in the knee. This usually occurs when you move your joint after sitting, standing or laying down for a while.

Worse With Certain Activities

When the source of your pain is runner's knee, you will notice the most discomfort when the joint is immobile for awhile. This is most noticeable when you stand after sitting for a while. Sustained exercise and activities that place significant impact on the knee, including jumping, kneeling and squatting, will also increase your pain level.

Causes of Runners Knee

Runner's knee is a catch-all term to describe pain in the joint and can be caused by many different issues. Despite the name, it is not always caused by running. While it can occur in athletes at all skill levels, this injury happens most frequently to those who tax their knees repeatedly during exercise.


Most who suffer from runner's knee sustain this injury due to too much strain on the joint. This can happen when the repeated impact of the foot strike during running impacts the cushioning surrounding the patella. High reps of plyometric exercises that require frequent bending and weight-bearing on the knee, such as lunges, can also stress the joint and cause pain.

Malalignment of the Bones

While you may recognize this issue prior to beginning an exercise regimen, malaligned bones anywhere in the leg can impact the proper functioning of your knee. Flat feet can also impact your knee joint. This is something that your doctor can help to diagnose and recommend how to cure runners knee. 

Injury to the Area

Runner's knee can also be caused by a blunt force injury sustained to the leg or knee. While this could happen if you fall or collide with something during a run, it is also very typical during contact sports. Like with a malalignment concern, it is important to see a doctor if you have pain following a direct blow during exercise to determine how to treat runners knee in this case.

Weak Thigh Muscles

As runners and other athletes know, cross-training is a vital component to any exercise plan. If the thigh muscles are not strong enough, the knee will not be adequately supported during rigorous or prolonged exercise. The kneecap can slide out of place, causing pain in the joint.

How to Diagnose Runner's Knee

Since runner's knee can be caused by several issues requiring various levels of medical intervention, it is best to seek an evaluation with a doctor if you exhibit symptoms. This is especially true if you know that the knee was directly injured or you suspect an alignment issue with your leg. However, it is advisable to see the doctor to confirm the suspected cause and begin appropriate treatment.

An orthopedist or sports medicine physician would be the best doctor to assess your joints and guide you on how to help runners knee. An x-ray is often prescribed to rule out more serious injuries, and further imaging may be recommended if you recall falling or sustaining a blow to the joint as the start of your pain. Once the doctor has ruled out a more serious injury, they will provide a course of treatment.

How To Treat Runners Knee

There are many different approaches for how to cure runners knee. While the specific course of action that your doctor recommends may vary, it will likely include one or more of the following courses of treatment in order to reduce your runners knee recovery time.


Giving your body time to rest is the number one way to heal your runner's knee. While it may feel difficult, especially if you are used to exercising daily, giving the joint time to heal is the best way to speed your recovery. You can engage in gentle, low-impact exercises such as walking or swimming, but you should be very careful to avoid jumps, squats, and running. Also, be sure to change positions frequently so that your knee does not become too stiff from prolonged sitting or standing.

Ice and Elevate

Elevating the knee and applying ice is particularly important if the joint is swollen, but will also help with general pain relief. Ice should only be applied for about 20 minutes every several hours. When you elevate your leg, your knee should be above your heart in order to allow the fluid around the joint to circulate elsewhere in the body.


Another way to ease pain as you heal is to wear a runner's knee brace for recovery. Providing compression to the joint gives it additional support for movement and can help reduce swelling, which in turn reduces your discomfort. It is important to find a properly fitted brace or to wrap the joint correctly so that you do not cause further damage to your knee or impede your circulation.

Stretch and Strengthen the Leg

As noted above, a lack of strength in the quadriceps muscles can lead to knee pain. Increasing strength exercises in your training regimen can help to reduce your recovery time and prevent future injury. Additionally, incorporating runners knee stretches can help to prepare your joints for activity and to heal after. Take the lead of a physical therapist on the exact exercises and protocol for how to help runners knee.

Anti-Inflammatory Medication

If the pain is not helped using the previous treatments, over-the-counter NSAIDs such as naproxen or ibuprofen can give you some relief. Do your best to limit these medications, however, as prolonged use can lead to stomach issues. The relief felt from pain medication can also encourage you to do too much activity before your knee is healed enough, making your injury worse.

Runner's Knee Brace For Recovery

As noted above, a knee brace is important for controlling pain and swelling as your joint recovers from runner's knee. It will support you as you engage in strength workouts and runners knee stretches and ease back into exercise. Choosing the correct brace is essential for improving the feel and function of your leg without causing further damage. These braces can help get your knee back to peak condition more quickly.

Cryosleeve Knee Brace

The Cryosleeve knee brace combines several of the recommended treatments for runners knee into a comfortable and supportive product. Unlike an ice pack which covers only a small portion of the affected area, this knee brace provides cooling relief to every surface of the knee simultaneously for a full hour. The material of the brace protects your skin while it is being iced so that you do not experience a burning or stinging sensation as you would from direct contact with an ice pack.

While providing pain relief for the knee by icing it, the Cryosleeve knee brace also offers support to the joint. Simply slide the brace on and adjust the fit using the micro-adjustable dials. You can also use this brace on your upper or lower legs to provide cooling and stability for your muscles.

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Thermosleeve Knee Brace

In order to help prevent sore muscles and weak joints that result in runner's knee, the Thermosleeve knee brace uses heat to soothe discomfort and provide extra support for the leg and knee. Working similarly to the Cryosleeve, the Thermosleeve has three temperature settings and a two-hour battery life to provide warmth and comfort to your ailing limbs. It also has the all-important dials that allow you to adjust the sized brace for just the right fit.

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