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Running Knee Pain: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Running Knee Pain

Running knee pain is one of the most common injuries and can be caused by various factors. Knee pain can be caused by injury, muscle weakness or imbalance, overload, or even poor running technique. Most runners experience knee pain at some point in their careers, which can be very frustrating. 

My Story

In 2016, after a few months of trying to avoid it, I had new surgery to repair a meniscus in my left knee. It was a painful and long way to recover. Today I want to share my key learning in recovering from my injury and staying injury-free form more than seven years.

Causes of knee pain while running

It can be caused by a variety of factors, such as:

  • Injuries to the soft tissues (ligaments, tendons, and muscles) surrounding the knee
  • Overload on the knee
  • Leg muscle imbalances
  • Arthritis
  • Leg alignment problems
  • Bad running techniques

Symptoms of running knee pain

The symptoms can vary depending on the underlying cause. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain around or behind the knee during or after running
  • Swelling and tenderness in the knee
  • Stiff knee after sitting or standing for long periods
  • Clicking or cracking in the knee
  • Difficulty bending or straightening the knee

Treatment of knee pain while running

Treatment of this injury depends on the underlying cause. Some common treatments include:

  • Rest – stopping physical activity that causes pain to allow the knee to heal
  • Ice – ice the knee for 15-20 minutes several times a day to reduce swelling
  • Compression – using an elastic bandage to reduce swelling
  • Elevation: elevate the leg to reduce swelling
  • Physical therapy: performing specific exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee and improve flexibility
  • Medications: taking anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Surgery: In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the underlying cause

Prevention

Preventing this injury is important for runners of all levels. Some preventive measures include:

  • Perform stretching exercises before and after running
  • Strengthen leg muscles with specific exercises
  • Wear athletic shoes that fit well and are appropriate for your foot type and gait
  • Avoid increasing training intensity or distance too quickly
  • Rest and allow your body to recover after intense workouts
  • Maintain a healthy weight to reduce the load on your knees.

Frequent questions

Can I keep running if I have knee pain? 

If you experience pain, allowing your knee to heal before running again is essential. Consult a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause of the pain and the best course of action.

How do I know if I have a muscle imbalance in my leg? 

A physical therapist or personal trainer can evaluate your running form and do strength tests to determine if you have muscle imbalances in your leg.

Can I prevent knee pain when running? 

Yes, you can reduce the risk of knee injury by following preventative measures such as strengthening your leg muscles, wearing proper shoes, and avoiding increasing your training intensity or distance too quickly.

Conclusion

Having pain while running can be frustrating and limiting for runners of all levels. Knowing the causes, symptoms, and treatments can help you prevent and treat this injury. If you experience knee pain while running, consult a health professional to determine the underlying cause and the best action to return to pain-free running.

Diego Alcubierre, a passionate runner and coach, started his journey at 26 with a 10k time of 1:06:23 and has since slashed 30 minutes off his personal record. With five running and coaching certifications, Diego is committed to sharing his expertise and proven strategies to help runners of all levels enhance their performance, stay motivated, and enjoy the journey of running. At Bannister, he simplifies complex training concepts, empowering you to achieve your running goals.