Knee Hurt While Running

Ever tried to go for a run but your knee pain cut it short? If this is so, this article is definitely for you.

Of all the aches and pains that can plague runners, knee pain is one of the most common. And as a physical therapist, my patients often ask me whether it’s ok to run with knee pain and whether  running through it could lead to a worse injury. The truth is, the answer is never that simple; there are serious knee injuries but there are also some not-too-serious conditions that runners may experience while running which shouldn’t call for alarm.

Have I ever experienced knee pain while running?

Any runner has experienced knee pain at least once, when running. This pain may be caused by

  1. Irritation of the soft tissues or lining of the knee,
  2. Worn or torn cartilage, or
  3. Strained tendons.

Any of the following can also contribute to runner’s knee:
4. overuse.

       5. Trauma to the kneecap.
Whether the knee pain stops you from starting the run or continuing with it, it ought to be treated with the urgency it deserves.

What could be causing my knee pain while running?

  1. Patellar tendinitis is caused by overuse or suddenly increasing running distance or frequency. This places additional stress on the patellar tendon, causing tiny tears that result in pain and inflammation. Having tight quad muscles or hamstrings can also put added strain on the patellar tendon.
  2. Another common running injury, especially amongst long-distance runners is ITB (iliotibial band) Syndrome. It affects the iliotibial band — a layer of connective tissue that runs from the hip to just past the knee.IT band syndrome is typically caused by overuse and tightness of the iliotibial band. Runners tend to experience tightness in the IT band because they are frequently moving backward and forwards (as opposed to side to side), which causes friction where the IT band meets the knee, producing inflammation and pain.
  3. Sometimes a small fluid-filled sac called a bursa may be inflamed due to repetitive strain from muscles rubbing against it, causing pain underneath the knee cap or underneath your knee at, the back side. This is often referred to as bursitis and it usually involves some swelling and significant weakness or in extreme cases loss of function of the effective knee.
  4. One of the leading sports physiotherapists revealed that weakness of muscles; especially the butt (glutes),thigh (hamstring and quadriceps group) is a common root cause of knee pain. This is especially true when the glutes fail to contract( fire up) and stabilze the hip while running which in turn forces the quads to hyper react and take over in attempt to regain pelvic stability. This in turn pulls the knee cap from its position and can at times be heard producing noises in the knee.

So, is it treatable?

  •  The best way to treat patellar tendinitis is by taking a break, icing the affected area, and strengthening and stretching your thigh muscles. Flexibility and strengthening exercises can also stimulate tissue healing. It’s also helpful to wear a patella brace to reduce the load on the tendon.
  • For ITB syndrome, pause running, try foam rolling, and strengthen your core and hips. You can also ice the outside of your knee or take over-the-counter medication for pain. IT band syndrome usually resolves in a few weeks. However, if pain persists see your physio as IT band syndrome can sometimes become chronic, requiring a month or two of rehabilitation.
  • Rest, ice and OTC anti-inflammatory medication alongside physiotherapy usually does the trick for bursitis but persistent bursitis may require a steroid injection, antibiotics or even surgery to remove the bursa. It is arguably okay to run with this injury as long as there is little to no swelling in the knee , no decrease in joint strength and have been cleared by your Physiotherapist .

The bottom line!!

Knee pain is common in runners, especially if they increase their mileage or pace suddenly. Most common knee injuries can be treated with rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain medication. However, if pain persists for more than a few weeks, reach out to your Physiotherapist or doctor as you may require more intensive treatment or surgery.


Compiled by:
Sharanya Thomas
Chiropractic & Physiotherapy Health Centre

My Knees Hurt While Running, What Can I Do?

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