The pain in the inner knee, also known as medial knee pain, can affect your ability to run and walk normally. The condition is sometimes referred to as runner’s knee, a general term for any knee pain associated with running.
An inner knee injury can come on suddenly or gradually without being related to a specific injury. It can even happen when you are not running.
This article outlines the symptoms and causes of a runner’s knee as well as how the condition is diagnosed and treated. Additionally, it explains when more invasive treatments, such as surgery, may be necessary.
Runner’s knee is characterized by the following symptoms:
- Knee pain on the medial (inner) side
- Swelling in your knee
- Sharp pains beneath your kneecap
- Running, climbing stairs, or standing up from a seated position are difficult
Inner knee pain is usually intermittent and occurs either immediately after running. However, it can also occur after engaging in any activity that stresses the knee joint.
Pain often occurs during weight-bearing activities such as climbing stairs. It can affect your knee’s ability to bend or straighten.
Runner’s knee typically causes pain just under the kneecap in the inner part of the knee joint. Pain can come and go, but is mostly felt when weight is placed on the knee.
Runner’s knee may be caused by various conditions and risk factors. Often more than one person is involved. These include:
- Misalignment of your kneecap on your femur (upper leg bone)
- Weakness in the muscles that control your hip or thigh
- Muscle tightness around the hip or knee
- Knee osteoarthritis
- Medial meniscus tear
- Knee bursitis or tendinitis
- Plica syndrome, is an inflammatory condition affecting the knee joint
Your knee should be directly over your foot when you are running or walking. Flat feet can cause your lower leg to turn inward. Increased stress on the inner part of the knee joint can result in pain.
Runner’s knee is often caused by traumatic injury to the knee but may also result from overuse, arthritis, inflammatory conditions like Plica syndrome, or weakness of the muscles that move the knee.
Diagnosing inner knee pain can be difficult since there may not be one clear cause. Often, multiple conditions are involved. Figuring out who is involved can take time.
In the physical examination for inner knee pain, your doctor will evaluate various structures around your knee. This exam may include:
- Palpation (gently touching and pressing the knee)
- Knee range of motion measurements
- Muscle strength measurements of the hip, thigh, and leg
- Analysis of your gait (how you walk)
- Other specialized knee tests
Often, imaging tests are part of the evaluation and may include:
- X-ray, which can show damage to bones
- A computerized tomography scan creates three-dimensional images of a knee joint by combining multiple X-rays
- With magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), powerful radio waves and magnetic fields produce highly detailed images of the knee, particularly the soft tissues
The diagnosis of runner’s knee is made with a physical exam as well as imaging tests such as a CT or MRI scan, which look for abnormalities in the knee joint.
There are various treatments for runner’s knee. These include simple home remedies as well as more invasive medical procedures. You can expect your knee pain to disappear in a few short weeks if you receive the right treatment.
Using home remedies for inner knee pain can reduce your pain and improve your mobility. Home remedies may include:
- Ice: Applying an ice pack to the knee can help reduce pain and swelling by reducing blood flow to injured tissues.1 Ice is most effective when applied shortly after the pain starts or flares up. Several times a day, ice your knee for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Heat: Applying gentle heat to the knee can increase blood flow and improve tissue mobility.2 It can be applied after the pain has subsided to make the knee feel better. Heat can also be used before stretching. It should be left on for ten to fifteen minutes.
- Medication: Anti-inflammatory medications such as Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen) can decrease pain and swelling, while analgesics such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) can relieve pain, but not swelling. Before taking any medication, consult your doctor to ensure that it is safe for you.
- Change of footwear: If flat feet are causing your knee to rotate inward, shoe inserts or high-arched shoes can support your foot arch.
- Exercise: Exercise can strengthen muscles and improve knee mechanics involved in walking and running. The exercises should be slow and steady with controlled movements. Stretches for the hamstrings, quadriceps, and hips, as well as resistance exercises for the hamstrings, quadriceps, and buttocks are all included.