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CrossFit Injuries: Knee Pain

CrossFit Injuries: Knee Pain

Knee Pain in CrossFit

Knee pain, commonly called Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, can affect anyone who does activities that require repetitive knee bending — like jumping, squatting, running or all of the above. Depending on the athlete, it may also be called Runner’s Knee, Jumper’s Knee, or the relatively newly coined CrossFitter Knee. It usually describes an aching knee pain around or under the kneecap.


Symptoms typically include pain that is worse or increases when you bend the knee, such as going up or down stairs, squatting, kneeling, running, or even rising from a chair. Occasionally there may be swelling around the knee cap, and you may experience some popping or grinding sensations in the knee.

Since knee pain can be caused by several different issues, individuals may respond differently to chiropractic treatment or may require different sports chiropractic techniques. Knee pain can result from the following:

  1. Overuse. Repeated bending during high stress exercises such as Olympic lifts, lunges, plyometrics, or running can irritate the kneecap joint (patellofemoral joint). Over-stressed tendons around the patella or kneecap may also cause the symptoms.
  2. Direct trauma. Typically a fall or blow to the knee.
  3. Weak thigh muscles or muscle imbalance. If you have an imbalance between the muscles that make up the quadriceps group (the muscle along the front of your thigh), physical stress won’t be evenly distributed through the knee. This often causes the knee cap to be pulled away from the midline of the knee joint which will typically cause pain either behind the knee cap or along the top of the knee cap.
  4. Problems with the feet or hips. We often refer to the knee as the middle child, in that it get’s “blamed” for what the hip and feet do. If you’re a middle child, you probably know exactly what we’re talking about! So while the underlying issue may be weak gluteal muscles or over-pronation of the foot, you experience pain in the knee.


Prevention & Self Treatment

The standard self-treatment protocol is R.I.C.E (rest, ice, compression, and elevation), results with this approach will vary, and we find that most CrossFit athletes do NOT want to take weeks away from their workout routine.

Stretching and foam rolling the muscles of the quadriceps will help ensure that the knee cap isn’t being over-stressed in one direction during repetitive exercise like CrossFit WODs. Proper footwear and isolated glute strengthening exercises will decrease the risk of the knee suffering from “middle child syndrome.” Proper rest and recovery after workouts also plays an important role in avoiding any related sports injury. Occasional maintenance visits to your sports chiropractor to make sure your joints are moving well and muscles are functioning properly is a great way to catch minor issues early and prevent potential injuries from occurring. Kinesio-taping for workouts can also be beneficial, just make sure you follow an appropriate set of instructions. Here’s a good starting point:


Graston Technique treatment for knee pain

Sports Chiropractic Treatment

Be smart! If you aren’t getting better, get some help. I can’t tell you how many patients come to us after waiting months or even years before seeking treatment. The longer you wait, the harder it is to correct the issue! Here are some tips for finding the right sports chiropractor:

  • Find someone certified in soft tissue mobilization, whether it’s instrument assisted like Graston Technique or hands on like Active Release Technique (ART). Overuse injuries respond well to manual therapy or hands-on muscle release work. If this is something that’s been around for a while, exercise alone won’t typically work because the muscles have learned to compensate and the neurological pain pathway has been well established.
  • Not every sports chiropractor is created equally. Some do very little soft tissue work and rely mostly on manipulation, others take a more integrated approached of using multiple treatment methods. We all specialize in our own areas, and while this can seem frustrating, most of us have websites to tell you what certifications we hold. There’s nothing worse than wasting 8 insurance visits not getting better, only to switch places and have them fix it in two or three visits.

Our Approach

On your first chiropractic visit, we are going to watch and analyze the way you move. That typically means working through a series of functional movement screens and even watching you perform common Olympic lifts to determine where you move well, where you don’t move so well and what compensation patterns you may have adopted in an attempt to hide your weaknesses and avoid pain. Once the underlying cause has been identified, we can start a targeted sports chiropractic treatment plan involving soft tissue treatments, specific corrective exercises, and possibly joint manipulations. This WILL require homework from you! We encourage a team approach to treatment at Elite. We’re not here just to fix you, we want to educate you on why this injury occurred and give you the information you need to keep it from happening again!


This article is part of a series looking at common CrossFit and lifting injuries, how to prevent them, and how to treat them if they do occur. We cover the following injuries: