How To Know When Its Safe To Run Through Knee Pain And When You Need To Stop
Of all the aches and pains that can plague runners, knee pain is one of the most common. As a doctor of physical therapy, patients often ask me when its OK to run with knee pain and when running through it could lead to a worse injury. As a runner myself, Im guilty of running with knee pain when I should probably be taking a break. If youre anything like me, it takes a significant amount of pain to actually get you to stop running, but the truth is, thats not always the best approach.
How To Heal Runners Knee
Getting healthy from PFPS is quite possible. In fact, its often not as difficult as many think.
But that doesnt mean it will be easy. Because runners knee is not as fully understood as other injuries, the treatment is less conclusive and more oriented toward rest and training modifications.
If youre patient and willing to try new things, you might be able to start running in just a week or two without any pain.
Check out our;Injury Prevention for Runners;program, which includes a full treatment protocol for runners knee:
- A daily treatment approach so you know exactly what to do to get healthy on a daily basis
- Video demonstrations of effective exercises to treat PFPS
- Tips & tricks on how to heal faster and get back to running
- Training advice on when to stop running, how to focus on pain management, and more
The program also includes training plans tailored for prevention, an expert interview series, 5 more injury treatment protocols, a collection of runner-specific core and strength routines, and more.
See all the details here and I hope that you recover from your runners knee injury as soon as possible!
Prevent And Pay Attention
As you can see, paying attention to your shins is a good practice. If you are tracking mileage on your shoes, running with shoes appropriate for your feet and gait, and regularly stretching and foam rolling, you are putting yourself in the best position to avoid injury.
Needless to say, you can do everything right and still end up hurt. This is why it is important to listen to your body and when it starts to tell you to take a break: listen. In the long run, pulling back on your training when your body asks you to will probably end up costing you less lost mileage than forging ahead.
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Beginner Runners: Best Tips On Avoiding Knee Pain
Many beginner;runners are aware of the multiple benefits that it can offer in terms of fitness levels and health. However, injury is always a risk especially knee pain which new runners can be prone to if the correct running form and technique isnt adhered to while training.
New runners often believe that in order to run long distances and increase speed, you need to start running non-stop without taking a break from the beginning. Running can be very demanding on the body especially the knees. By not taking your training sessions slowly and giving your body the time it needs to adjust, this can lead to new runners experiencing knee pain.
Side Knee Pain: It Band Syndrome
If you feel a sharp, stabbing pain on the outside of your knee, you may be dealing with iliotibial band syndrome , a very common injury among runners. The iliotibial band is a band of tissue that runs along the outside of the thigh, from the tensor fasciae latae where it attaches at the top of the hip to the outside of the knee. It helps to stabilize the knee and hip when you run.
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What Is Runner’s Knee
Runner’s knee also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome ; is an overuse injury that affects as many as 30% of female runners and 25% of male runners. That makes it the most common running-related injury.
In runner’s knee, the cartilage in your kneecap gets irritated. This causes pain while you’re running, squatting, bending or even sitting for awhile. I often see patients come in with runner’s knee after they start running at an incline or increase miles or speed.
Runners Knee Myth: Its Because Of My Q
Many therapists will blame the usual suspects for a case of PFPS:
- Leg length discrepancy
- Severe pronation
But these issues are unlikely why you have runners knee. Lets keep this simple: there is no research that supports these claims.
PFPS is a more mysterious injury than some others, so I cant criticize clinicians who may blame the usual suspects. But the truth is this: no studies have confirmed these issues as contributing to runners knee.
These biomechanical issues could certainly contribute to runners knee, but nobody knows for certain and its irresponsible to make those claims as definitive.
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Why Does Going Down Hurt More
Put simply, the knee cant hide when we go down the stairs.;
Its easy to compensate for knee pain when going up stairsthe glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles can propel us up. But its much harder to compensate going down the stairs. So those irritable tissues in the knee handle the workloadand complain the whole way down.;
Lets take a quick look at the knee anatomy to understand common causes of knee pain.;
Types Of Running Injuries And Their Symptoms
Runners can alleviate many of their aches and pains with minimal resources, and they heal in a relatively brief time. Some of these conditions wont require the individual to alter their exercise routine heavily. However, larger issues like injuries may need more detailed treatment plans that could include surgical procedures.
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Runners Knee Is The Most Common Culprit Of Running
According to research, approximately 25 percent of running-related injuries are attributed to patellofemoral pain syndrome , or runners knee. In my experience, the number of women affected by this condition is significantly higher than the number of men due in part to the angle that womens wider hips create at the knee joint. Runners knee can feel like a dull, diffuse ache in and around the kneecap. It is caused by muscle imbalances that cause the knee cap to shift out of place as you bend and straighten your leg, ultimately leading to irritation in and around the joint.
Runners knee can often lead to chondromalacia, a condition that develops when the cartilage under the kneecap becomes rough with repeated wear and tear. This roughening causes increased friction below the joints surface, leading to irritation, inflammation, and pain.
IT band syndrome is also an overuse injury. The IT band is a band of fascia that extends from the hip to just below the knee. It acts as a stabilizer during running, and overuse or a quick increase in training volume can cause it to become irritated.
Can I Run With Runners Knee Pain
You should take time off from running when you notice the onset of runner’s knee, but you don’t have to quit exercise entirely. You can cross-train as long as the movement is pain-free. You’ll know that it’s safe to start running again when you’re able to run with a normal gait and without pain. If you find that you change your movement or compensate because of pain, you’re not quite ready.
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You Might Have Iliotibial Band Syndrome
If you feel pain outside your kneecap, chances are you have iliotibial band syndrome. The IT band is a stretch of fibers that runs from your hip to the knee on the outer side of the leg and is supported by the bursa to function smoothly, Dr. Logan explains.
Repeatedly bending and extending your knee while running can irritate the IT band and the tissues around it, causing pain and swelling known as IT band syndrome, according to Cedars Sinai. In addition to pain on the outside part of your knee, IT band syndrome can cause clicking, popping and snapping, per the Hospital for Special Surgery.
“Hip abduction is required for any activity that involves one of your feet being off the ground. Your hip abductors keep your pelvis relatively level when walking or running when the opposite side foot comes off the ground. The IT band helps with this, which helps explain why it gets tight,” Dr. Logan says.
“For the IT band to be stretched, your knee has to cross the midline of your body,” he explains. “This rarely occurs during straight-line running, so all it gets to do is contract over and over.”
“I also notice more pain myself when my shoes have too many miles on them. Spend the money to get fitted for the right shoe for your foot shape, and keep track of your miles,” he says. When you feel like your running shoes are worn out, toss them and get a new pair to prevent injury and pain.
Invest In A Good Pair Of Running Shoes And Socks
You wouldn’t show up to swim practice without a quality bathing suit, right? Well, the same goes for running: You need trustworthy gear to get the job done. “The technology in sneakers today is very advanced, and most running shoes are designed to assist the human body, so its a great idea to head to a running store for a gait analysis,” says Gentry. “In most cases, they’ll be able to show you shoes that suit your natural running style. Definitely remember to wear shoes that are comfortable, though.”
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Some Basics About Both Injuries To Keep In Mind
Beware of chronicity! Although humans are born to run,6 and most cases are easy to recover from,7 these injuries do have a nasty way of dragging on and on in some unlucky runners please be aware of that risk.8 These conditions definitely do not have any guaranteed cures.
There are also many myths about both conditions that need busting, like the one about IT band stretching, the dubious importance of kneecap tracking, or the exaggerated dangers of running on pavement .
Understanding Pain Behind The Knee
More often than not, pain behind the knee is diagnosed as patellofemoral pain syndrome . Patello is the patella, so the kneecap. Femoral refers to the femur, which is the thighbone and pain and syndrome is PFPS, patella femoral pain syndrome. It usually happens to runners and cyclists and hikers.
However, people who sit for most of the day in sedentary jobs or sedentary lifestyles, it can also happen to them. There are a couple of muscles involved with this. The quadriceps muscle is the big muscle at the front of the thigh. The calves are the sizable muscles behind the shin, and the hamstrings are the muscles behind the thigh.
So these control the joints of the lower body.
PFPS can be caused by overuse , biomechanical abnormalities or muscle dysfunction .
PFPS typically feels like mild or severe discomfort that radiates from the back of the knee cap touching the thigh bone.;
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What Should I Do About Heel Pain
Andy recommends applying ice to the area. He says the best way to do this is to freeze a small bottle of water, then place it on the floor and roll it back and forth under your foot for about 20 minutes. Never place ice directly on your skin.
There are also several stretches you can do to help heel pain. See the Health A-Z section on;treating heel pain for guidance on how to do them.
Stop running and see a GP straight away if there’s a lot of swelling in the heel or the area under your foot. Otherwise, see a GP after a week to 10 days if the pain does not go away.
What Should I Do About Achilles Pain When I Run
To treat achilles pain at home, Andy recommends applying ice to the area if you can feel a lump there . You can also gently massage the area with your fingers.
You could also try using heel wedges in your shoes. Get advice about this from a sports or running shop.
See a GP or a physiotherapist if you have achilles pain that does not disappear after 3 to 4 weeks.
If you have a sudden, sharp pain, your achilles tendon may have torn. See a GP straight away if this is the case.
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Knee Pain Running Treatment
BraceAbility offers a wide selection of Knee Injury Treatments, including treatments for general knee pain and treatments for jumper’s knee or runner’s knee. You can likely infer a number of the knee pain treatment and preventative steps from the descriptions of the risk factors for developing runners knee pain. First, it is important not to muscle through knee pain. Pain is a red flag that something is wrong. Heed it and seek the help of a professional.
Most instances of knee pain and running can be remedied by conservative treatments. The first line of defense is often engaging in the steps of RICErest, ice, compression and elevationpossibly with the use of an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication. A doctor can recommend a number of knee injury stretches and exercises to strengthen and improve the flexibility of key leg muscles.
When one gets back to running, it is important to always stretch and warm-up before a run. The use of proper running shoes for knee pain avoidance is also important. This includes wearing shoes that are supportive and suited to your foot and gait.
Wearing an appropriate amount of clothing for the weather is also important for preventing sore or tight muscles. Use of a knee brace for runners or a runner’s knee band may also provide some useful extra support and a boost in circulation that can promote healing as one eases back into training.
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How Is Runners Knee Treated
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment based on:
How old you are
Your overall health and health history
How much pain you have
How well you can handle specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
How long the condition is expected to last
Your opinion or preference
The best course of treatment for runner’s knee is to stop running until you can run again without pain. Other treatment may include:
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Why Do My Shins Hurt When I Run
Most runners assume that if their shins hurt while running, they have shin splints. Actually, there are a couple of other ailments it could be.
One possible shin issue is compartment syndrome. What happens in there is where muscles swell within a closed compartment. This creates pressure which in turn causes pain. Some symptoms that point to compartment syndrome are unusual nerve sensations, leg pain and after a while, muscle weakness.
In mild cases, the runners pain can improve with show inserts and anti-inflammatory drugs. Athletes with more severe cases of compartment syndrome often need a surgical release of pressure.
A runner can also get a;stress fracture;in the shins which will cause pain. Far more serious than shin splints, the runner needs a bone scan to diagnose the stress fracture. Where pain of shin splints is usually more generalized, a stress fracture typically has a hot spot where you can pinpoint the pain.
One other method of telling the difference is a stress fracture typically feels better in the morning after being off of it all night. Shin splints are often worse in the morning.
When Will My Knee Feel Better
People heal at different rates. Your recovery time depends on your body and your injury.
While you get better, you need to take it easy on your knee. That doesnât mean you have to give up exercise. Just try something new that won’t hurt your joint. If you’re a jogger, swim laps in a pool instead.
Whatever you do, don’t rush things. If you try to get back to your workouts before youâre healed, you could damage the joint for good. Don’t return to your old level of physical activity until:
- You can fully bend and straighten your knee without pain.
- You feel no pain in your knee when you walk, jog, sprint, or jump.
- Your knee is as strong as your uninjured knee.
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Why Does My Knee Hurt During Or After Running
Last reviewed:;Medically reviewed
Running has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, but this has led to a rise in knee pain.
According to a study in the British Medical Journal , around 4 in 5 runners develop an injury that temporarily prevents them from running at least once a year – and the main location of these injuries is the knee.
Running itself is good for you but if you develop bad habits or run badly then you will be prone to injury, says Andy Goldberg OBE, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the Wellington Hospital in London, UK.
If you develop knee pain during or after running, it could be due to a number of reasons.