Runner’s knee – Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome feels better with ice cream

Ilona Andrews has written some very enjoyable books and in ‘Magic Slays’ there is a line that perfectly sums up how I currently feel about my left knee; “now the knee had developed a steady annoying ache, and I had this absurd feeling that if only I could jam something sharp in there, the pain would go away.”

Logically I know that this shouldn’t sound a good idea, but I’m fed up sitting with a bag of frozen peas on my knee due to an(other) attack of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS), a condition which is often dumbed down to Runner’s Knee.

I say dumbed down because Runner’s Knee is a blanket term usually used for two separate conditions – iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) and Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS). Occasionally other rogue knee/leg pains get lumped in too!


My pain is PFPS because it is on the front of the knee, if it was ITBS the pain would be on the side of the knee. Knowing the difference doesn’t make me feel any better as PFPS is the vaguer of the two!

It is so vague in fact that the most reliable advice once you have the eye-watering pain is rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) plus as many anti-inflammatory drugs as the manufacturer/doctor/someone with some sort of formal medical qualifications says are ok!

The reason this works is the muscle that is the knee moves up and down in a small groove on the thigh bone – the femoral groove (hence the main of the pain!), and sometimes it doesn’t move smoothly or cleanly, which produces pain, inflammation and swearing.

The possibly causes of PFPS are plentiful and open: conventional wisdom says: tight hamstrings don’t help, tight calves don’t help, weak quads get blame in some areas, being a woman gives you a greater change (wide hips increase the angle of the thigh to the knee and stress out the knee!), running on hills, running on bumpy surfaces, pigeon knees, bad or worn running shoes, flat feet, feet with too big an arch, sitting down too much, running too much/too far… I suggest having “having a knee in the first place” might need to be included in this list just to provide complete coverage to the point of bafflement!

In terms of future prevention quadriceps and hip strengthening moves are often recommended for PFPS, the idea being that you ‘train’ your body to use your knee joint better. It may work for some people but personally it hasn’t worked for me yet! Making sure you replace running shoes before they die is definitely something that I really need to get better at.

My peas are now nearly defrosted so I probably need another bag… although a carton of ice cream sounds more therapeutic!

The wonderful ice cream picture is by the extremely talented Jonathon Kambouris.

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