Can I run with…knee pain?
Posted by JB Smith, Co-Owner on
Not a good idea. Knee pain, or runner’s knee, feels like an aching pain around or behind the knee cap. Sometimes the knee pain is felt only when the knee is bent or perhaps only when going downstairs or downhill.
But runner’s knee is not a single syndrome. The pain and/or swelling could be caused by several different things:
- Irritated or enflamed tendons due to overuse and overstretching
- Trauma to the knee, like a fall or banging it against something
- Misalignment of the kneecap
- Over pronation and flat feet that cause sideways movement of the knee cap
- Weak supporting leg muscles (in runners generally the quads)
With all these possible underlying causes, it is necessary to be cautious when treating a knee injury. And the first prescribed treatment is REST. For any and all of these causes you must rest your knee until it is pain free. None of these can be resolved if you continue to put pressure on your knee, even if you try many other effective treatments.
Here is a huge list of possible help for your knee pain (complied with the above causes in mind)
- Rest first, until you are pain free, or knee pain will persist longer
- Ice and compression for swelling. Compression sleeves for knees have cutouts around the kneecap to allow it to move naturally but continuaously apply pressure
- Consider if you may have knocked your knee in a situation outside running. It may not have seemed notable at the time but could affect your running performance
- Try a softer surface for some of your runs like grass, track or trails.
- Warm up the knee with a hot pack prior to a run.
- Foam roll the tight muscles all down the leg. Stretching has been controversial recently, but foam rolling doesn’t appear to tear or weaken muscle fibers in the same way and can still loosen tight areas that throw body alignment off.
- Gradual increase of mileage or intensity of miles. The rule is no increase of more than 10% a week. That means speedwork should be eased into also, even if those miles replace other training miles in the schedule.
- New shoes! If you picked your shoes based on online reviews or because of price or color, it is worthwhile getting fitted by a professional. At SHOES-n-FEET we look at your feet, you gait and ask you questions about your running habits to get the best shoe on your feet. If your shoes don’t look worn out but you’ve been running on them for more than 6-8 months, the cushion may be worn out. Shoes are an integral part of a runner’s overall health!
- Muscle strengthening moves. This blog has covered the essential strength moves for runners to keep all the muscles in the legs strong, not just the hamstrings. A runner with injured knees can modify wall squats into a movement more like perching on a stool than sitting on a chair. Also try laying down leg lifts for quad strengthening with no pressure on the knees. Swimming and cycling also build the smaller muscles of the leg that support the kneecap.
- If you kneecap is misaligned and you have felt a grinding sensation, take it to the doctor before trying these recommendations. The knee can be damaged further.
It is usually possible for a runner with “bad knees” to continue in the sport, but it does some precaustions and vigilance. Don’t try to power through knee pain like you would muscle fatique or inclement weather. Use that mental toughness for the last mile of the race, but baby your knees!