Physical Therapy for Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee is one of those catch all terms for runners and knee pain.  It can mean several things like quadricep tendinitis or IT Band tendinitis (Iliotibial band) and so on.  But most often the cause the pain for runner’s knee is a few things and that people fail in treating it because they look for only one thing that is wrong and treat that one thing.

One thing everyone who has knee pain and is a runner seems to have in common is the minute they have knee pain; they stop running thinking this is going to solve the knee pain.  And some have even been told to stop running by medical professionals.  Stopping running without treatment, and not just pill popping, the worst thing you can do.

Unfortunately, we do see a lot of this in our practice.  Runners who have knee pain, who diagnose it as runner’s knee, and then they stop running and pop some Advil and then wait 2 weeks and go back out running again and feel great and then a month later, two weeks later, two days later, it got worse.  This cycle can happen three, four, five, six times where the runner, will stop running when they feel knee pain when a few weeks and then go back and it feels better but then it hurts again.  Eventually it hurts to the point that no matter how many days you take off allows the knee pain to subside.  Taking time off running and not getting treated is a HUGE mistake and will ultimately fail and possibly cause you to never run again.

The truth of the matter is that most people can run while they are being treated because we are activity finding the cause of the problem and eliminating it.  And most of it we can do while you are still running.  So, what are the causes of runner’s knee.

It is not often one thing that causes runner’s knee.  IT Band tendinitis which is inflammation of a muscle on the outside of the leg.  This usually becomes inflamed because of overuse and has a lot to do with muscle imbalances throughout the hip and core.  Runner’s knee could also include hamstring trigger points which is pain and tender points in the back of the leg, or it could be overuse of the quadricep muscle which is caused by weaker hips.  There could also be problems with the foot and that is causing the knee pain.  Identifying all causes of the pain in the knee is imperative for the pain to be eliminated.

The other factor that needs to be considered is depending on how long the knee pain has been going on will depend on how many muscles are affected.  Generally starting in the hip, the back, the IT Band, the hamstring and so on all the way down the leg it is possible that every muscle has been affected and causing the knee pain and all the muscles will need to be addressed.

What can you do to treat runner’s knee?

First you should be icing for about 15 minutes every day.

The second thing you want to do is foam roll.  There are several foam rolling videos on our You Tube channel that shows you how to roll each muscle.  The video below will show you just a few you can do on the legs.  You should concentrate on your hamstrings, piriformis and IT Band.

Foam rolling may hurt which indicates that you need to be doing it even more and get rid of the trigger points in the legs.  Without getting rid of these trigger points you will not be able to ever run without pain.

You should foam roll for about 10 minutes a day.

The third you should be doing is you should begin strengthening.  A few basic exercises you should begin doing are planks, side planks and reverse planks.  You should hold each of these for one minute and perform 3 sets.  Now those are just basic exercises, once we determine which muscles are affected, we can better form an exercise program that will eliminate your knee pain.


We’re Hiring!
We Have an Immediate Opening for a Physical Therapist in Harleysville. Resumes Can Be Sent to

Scroll to Top