3 common causes of running-related knee pain

CCarson February 24, 2024 7:00 AM

Running is a wonderful way to stay in shape and maintain your overall health. However, it's not without its potential risks. One of the most common issues runners face is knee pain, which can range from mild discomfort to debilitating pain. In this article, we'll delve into the three common causes of running-related knee pain and offer solutions to prevent and manage them.

Runner's Knee

Often referred to as 'runner's knee,' patellofemoral pain syndrome is a common cause of knee pain in runners. It's characterized by pain around the kneecap (patella).


Runner's knee can occur for several reasons. Overuse often contributes to the condition, especially if a runner increases their mileage too quickly. Other factors include weak or unbalanced thigh muscles, poor running mechanics, or a misaligned kneecap.

Prevention and Treatment

Preventing runner's knee involves strengthening your thigh muscles, gradually increasing your running mileage, and utilizing proper running mechanics. If you're already suffering from runner's knee, rest, ice, compression, and elevation (known as the RICE method) can be beneficial. Additionally, physical therapy exercises can reduce pain and get you back to running.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

The iliotibial (IT) band is a piece of connective tissue that runs from your hip to your shin. When it becomes inflamed, it can cause pain on the outside of your knee. This is known as iliotibial band syndrome.


IT band syndrome is often caused by overuse, especially in runners who suddenly increase their mileage or intensity. Other causes can include weak hip or glute muscles, running on uneven surfaces, or wearing worn-out shoes.

Prevention and Treatment

You can prevent IT band syndrome by increasing your mileage gradually, strengthening your hip and glute muscles, running on flat surfaces, and replacing your shoes regularly. If you have IT band syndrome, rest, ice, and stretching can help alleviate the pain. Physical therapy exercises can also be helpful.

Patellar Tendinitis

Patellar tendinitis, also known as 'jumper's knee,' is characterized by pain in the front of the knee, below the kneecap. It's common in sports that involve a lot of jumping, but runners can also develop this condition.


Patellar tendinitis is often caused by repetitive stress on the knee, particularly from running downhill or on hard surfaces. Weak thigh muscles can also contribute to the condition.

Prevention and Treatment

To prevent patellar tendinitis, avoid running on hard or downhill surfaces, strengthen your thigh muscles, and make sure you're wearing proper shoes. If you have patellar tendinitis, the RICE method can be beneficial, along with physical therapy exercises.

Here's a summary of the common causes of running-related knee pain, their prevention, and treatment.

Running Related Knee Pain Causes Prevention Treatment
Runner's Knee Overuse, unbalanced thigh muscles, poor mechanics, misaligned kneecap Strengthen thigh muscles, gradually increase mileage, good mechanics RICE, physical therapy
Iliotibial Band Syndrome Overuse, weak hip/glute muscles, uneven surfaces, worn-out shoes Increase mileage gradually, strengthen hip/glute muscles, run on flat surfaces, replace shoes regularly Rest, ice, stretching, physical therapy
Patellar Tendinitis Repetitive stress, running downhill/hard surfaces, weak thigh muscles Avoid hard/downhill surfaces, strengthen thigh muscles, proper shoes RICE, physical therapy

Understanding the causes of running-related knee pain can help you take measures to prevent these injuries and keep your knees healthy. Remember, always consult with a healthcare professional if you're experiencing persistent knee pain.

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