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Physical Therapy for Runner’s Knee – Information, Exercises, and More

Runner’s knee symptoms can really slow you down.

If you’re experiencing pain in your knees when you exercise, it’s time to get it resolved before it gets worse.

In this guide, learn more about what causes runner’s knee and your treatment options.

What is Runner’s Knee?

Runner’s knee is diagnosed when a patient is found to have pain underneath their kneecap (patella). Usually this is inflammation of the joint and is caused by excessive exercise.

This is how it happens:

Have you ever felt muscle soreness after a hard workout?

Soreness after exercise is caused by tiny tears in your muscles, called microtrauma

While muscles can benefit from microtrauma, ligaments and tendons have the tendency to get inflamed from too much vigorous exercise. 

Repetitive microtrauma without proper rest can even cause fractures in the bone.

So, how do you keep active without injuring your joints?

What Causes Runner’s Knee?

Think about the most common moves you do during a workout. Many exercises involve using your knees:

  • Squatting
  • Jumping
  • Bending
  • Running

For this reason, it’s easy to overwork your knees during sporting activities and exercises. 

Any sport or activity that involves running or bending can cause runner’s knee. Here are a few of the most common.


Soccer is one of the most running-intensive sports. 

Many soccer players have experienced knee pain for this reason.


Football also requires a lot of running. 

Playing football also includes using your knees in several different squatted positions. The high-impact nature of football can also be a factor if you accidentally injure your knees. 


You may not realize it but cycling can cause strain on your knees.

Although cycling has less impact than running, the repetitive motion can cause runner’s knee symptoms.

Runner’s Knee Symptoms

Runner’s knee has very specific symptoms that can help doctors identify it and rule out other knee issues like bursitis.

If your doctor or therapist suspects that you have runner’s knee, they may do an MRI to get a better idea of what is causing the pain in your joint.

Burning Pain Under The Kneecap

The most common symptom of runner’s knee is a sharp pain under the kneecap. 

If your pain is to the side or on top of the knee cap, you might be experiencing another knee problem.

Kneecap is Painful To The Touch

Runner’s knee patients may experience pain when the kneecap is touched. 

Pain-to-the-touch is a less common symptom of runner’s knee. If your knee hurts when you touch it, this might indicate an injury to your bones, or the outside of your patella.

Runner’s Knee Treatment

There are several treatments for runner’s knee. Here are the most common:

Runner’s Knee Physical Therapy Exercises

If you don’t want to resort to surgery yet, physical therapy exercises for runner’s knee can help.

A Doctor of Physical Therapy will show you how to strengthen other parts of your leg to be able to support your knee better while exercising. 

You might also benefit from certain stretches. Before attempting any stretches or exercise for runner’s knee, consult with a professional so you can be sure that you aren’t making your injury worse.


Your runner’s knee symptoms might be alleviated by using orthotic treatments. A professional therapist can evaluate your feet and see if the way you run is causing your knee pain.

Anti-inflammatory Medications

Your doctor or physical therapist might recommend medication to help with your runner’s knee symptoms. 

These medications could include over-the-counter oral anti-inflammatories. Or you might be prescribed a corticosteroid injection. 


Runner’s Knee Surgery

Surgery for runner’s knee should only be considered after you’ve exhausted other options. 

Before thinking about surgery, talk to a Doctor of Physical Therapy for advice.

Runner’s Knee Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?

Runner’s knee can be easily resolved with the right physical therapy. 

Therapists at In Motion O.C. have experience with exercise-related injuries like runner’s knee, and they can help you understand what is causing your injury, and how you can fix it.

Best Runner’s Knee Exercises

Runner’s knee is caused by excessive exercise, so you might need to rest instead of doing more workouts. 

However, there are some things a physical therapist may recommend to ease your runner’s knee pain with exercise.

Strengthen Surrounding Muscles

Sometimes weakness in your legs can cause extra strain on your knees

Your doctor or physical therapist might suggest that you do exercises to target the muscles around your knees.

Activity Modification

One of the best things you can do for runner’s knee is change up your activity. If you’re running 5 miles per day, try cycling instead. 

If you want to stick with the same exercise you’ve been doing, try modifying it so you are doing something slightly different with your body. 

If you are running 5 miles per day on a flat surface, it can help to add a slope to the treadmill so you’re running at a different angle.

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With Runner’s Knee

You may be wondering where to get professional help with your runner’s knee pain. 

In Motion O.C. can help you. We’ve helped dozens of clients who suffer from knee pain. Our top-notch physical therapists can find out exactly what is causing your discomfort, and put together an intensive strategy plan for healing. 

We will show you what is causing your runner’s knee, and what exercises and modifications can help.

In Motion O.C. is ranked the #1 physical therapist in the entire country on Yelp. Our customers have fantastic experiences, and you will too. Call and make an appointment today so we can help you heal and get back to your normal exercise routines.

*This information about physical therapy for runner’s knee was reviewed by Dr Natalie Thomas, PT, DPT. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

In Motion O.C.