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Knee hurts when running

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my story:

2-3 yrs ago - running fine no problems (20-40min slow paced runs just built up my running a little further each time)

last summer - decide to get back running again after a break and so start the couch to 5k - doing great then one sunday i overdo it and knee huuuurts!! rest it but each time try to start running again just PAIN. see doctor - says there is fluid there but nothing trapped - rest and start running again slowly in time. build back up with swimming. i blame overdoing it and my crappy trainers.

now - did a little tester run last sunday (1 min run/2 min walk) and was ok so started the couch to 5k again today (1 min run/90 secs walk for 20 mins). about half way through i get the same pain again.

the pain - it is on the OUTSIDE of my knee and feels like something is trapped and it tenses up. i'm not wearing the same trainers as before. i naturally tend to lean outwards when i walk (so walking favouring the outer sides of my feet) and wonder if this might have anything to do with it..? or maybe it is something about the couch to 5k and the stopping and starting (anyone else had this..?)? I don't have any pain cycling or walking.

any advice would be much appreciated...

p.s. will make an appointment with doctor again soon i guess

17 Replies (last)

not an expert, but a couple of things.

1.  Form - make sure you have your feet propery aligned when you run.  During my 5K this weekend, I was running with my toes pointed outward and my left knee started hurting.

2.  Muscle imabalances - the muscles on one side of your knee are stronger than on the other side.  This causes it to pull the patella out of place and it rubs on your knee causing pain.

Number one you can figure out yourself.  Pay close attention to how you are actually running.  Short stride, quick turnover.  Good alignment.

Number 2 you can fix with exercises, but you may need to get a physical therapist to check you out and recomment something specific.

These certainly are not the only reasons your knee may be bothering you, but cover a large percentage...

Original Post by wesmckean:

1.  Form - make sure you have your feet propery aligned when you run.  During my 5K this weekend, I was running with my toes pointed outward and my left knee started hurting.

this is what i was thinking.  when i was a kid i severed the ligament between tibia and foot, on the inside of my right ankle.  because this ligament is a little short, that foot tends to want to point out.  if i'm not careful to keep it straight when i run, it definitely affects my knee.

you might want to go to a good running store and get a stride analysis.  if you're in the wrong shoes, that can be a big problem.

It's also very comon, especially for women, to have weak abductor muscles (hip/glute area) which causes problems with the IT band most often manifested as pain on the outer lower side of the knee. Definitely see a physiotherapist and look for one that does active release therapy (ART) ... most physio's who don't do ART will tell you to stop running until it heals - could be 6 months. If you find someone who does ART there's a good chance you won't have to stop as long as you get regular treatments and do the strenghtening in the weak areas.


thanks for the comments so far. my knee was hurting all day, even when i was just walking, after my run yesterday and then suddenly it wasn't...!? but i can still feel it up and down stairs. feels like something is getting trapped - i'm fine for about the first five mins of running and then eek!

physio sounds like a good idea but i don't think that's something i'm going to get on the NHS (and I am flat broke which is why fancy trainers aren't an option right now either). such a shame cos running is supposed to be this cheap exercise that anyone can do anywhere - ideal for me (had to quit the gym last month because I couldnt afford it anymore) - but turns out it isn't so easy!

do you think a knee brace thing would help - and if i concentrate on my form? or should i just give up and not risk anymore damage? i don't know if i'm doing anything irreparable to my knee if i keep running...?

btw - when i'm running it doesn't hurt on the impact but on the bending of the knee. in case that is important! lol.

Well, I'm not a health professional, but I find that wearing a knee brace, especially when the knee is still a tiny bit tender, can really but down on reinjury. I hurt my knee jogging in early 2008 and it's still a bit tender, but I find the knee brace tends to keep things in place. Also. if you are running on cement or pavement, a lot of weight is being put on your knees. I find running on soil or grass is much easier on my joints in general.


Good luck!

I use "orthotics" (SuperFeet) which helps keep my feet properly aligned  and that helps with "outside knee pain".  I wear a full knee brace as well but you might want to look into an IT band brace (they look like a wrist band for and wrap just below the knee giving support to the IT band that runs along the side of the leg).  Also try for more advice than you'd need on these matters.

Oh boy...I had a terrible bout with Illiotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) a few years ago.  A classic symptom of ITBS is pain on the *outside* of the knee area along with pain as you walk *down* stairs.

*Make sure you are wearing the right shoes/in-soles for your feet.

*Work on proper running form (I worked really slowly on a treadmill in front of a mirror so I could watch my feet).

*Add mileage SLOWLY.

*Stretch and massage that area.  I know some other friends of mine have had success with the foam roller (using it along the outside of the upper leg).  The illitibial band actually runs from your hip to your knee (it isn't actually a knee thing), so stretching deep into that hip should help.

*Taking time off...I know, that isn't what you want to hear!

For me, those are all the things that got rid of it for me.  Once and a great while I do feel that familiar pain again, but mostly because I don't run as regularly as I used to (spending more time lifting and playing tennis!).  Plus, I know my shoes are overdo to be replaced.  But I first took time off, then reworked my form while changing shoes, then worked on stretching, stretching, stretching (after runs of course).

And, if you feel the pain while you are running...STOP!  You don't want to cause more problems or end up having to have surgery (worst case scenario, but I know of runners who've overdone it and ended up down this road) to correct it.

Good luck and happy running!

PS...I never wore an IT band strap, but I know it has helped others.  Might be worth a try, and they aren't too expensive.

PPS...I saw someone mentioned ART...I never had it for my knee, but I did for Plantar Fasciitis, and hurt sometimes but it did the trick.  VERY expensive, though!  :(

Original Post by bebe_66:

but i can still feel it up and down stairs. feels like something is getting trapped - i'm fine for about the first five mins of running and then eek!

exactly what topaz said...

 This sounds VERY similar to my IT band injury I just recovered from in November-ish.  It took a very long time to recover....I had worked my way upto 15k runs and then, injury, couldn't run for even 15 minutes.  I had to quit running entirely for about a month then gradually build up, stopped AS SOON AS I felt the SLIGHTEST twinge, and then a day off and ran again -- another big change to my routine was a serious DEDICATION to stretching after my runs.  Look up stretches that target IT band and good luck.

I am back at training for a half, no more problems so far.  I'm at 11k, but this is now 6 months later.  It was very depressing to have running taken from me for that time.

My best estimated guess is that you pulled a muscle in your knee (which could explain the fluid). You didn't do anything crazy enough to worry about a ligament and the pain you explain under the circumstances it hurts also makes it seem unlikely.

I would say meet with a physio therapist. They will also tell you to rest and get back in SLOWLY... and literally it would be baby steps because your body needs to recondition.

sybil878 and teennah, thanks for the advice. weak abductors is my issue and i have similar discomfort. streching and not over training one set of muscles is also important with this type of pain.

thank you all - this is great advice. i did google about a bit and thought it probably sounded like the ITBS thing - I thought as I hadn't run since last summer it would have righted itself but I guess that's not how it works! I am such a beginner really to running and I don't necessarily want to race but it would be lovely to just be able to run - but now it feels like it is going to be such a lot of work to acheive even that! it has all become complicated when all i wanted to do was run about a bit now and then! lol. feels like i've been stopped before I even got started. (sorry for that little self-pitying moan!).

Don't think of it as work.  Think of it as systematically introducing stretching into your routine, adding IT strengthening exercises and getting to know your body and its limits.


Here are a couple things I introduced to my routine and, now that I am healed (god I hope I don't jinx myself), I still do these - p;feature=related

and "side steps" with elastic band.

I also use another assorment of stretches totalling about 15 minutes after a run.  I've come to quite enjoy my stretching time.  You might too.

thanks for this on_my_way. i did a looooong google session yesterday looking at various exercises and stuff for ITBS. i think i may be an underpronator and my trainers were the wrong kind etc. etc. - so bad form, bad trainers, overdoing it... all totally my own fault! lol. been looking online for neutral cushioning trainers but will just walk and do stretches until i buy some. i've walked into work this morn and did some tiny sprints on grass as i was going along. no pain but i know if i tried to do a sustained run it would start to hurt. so going to build up slowly and definitely incorporate more stretching. i do yoga most mornings - just a few poses - but i guess i need to focus on those that specifically target the IT band. the main advice seemed to be:

1. ice A LOT

2. ibruprofin (sp?) for inflammation

3. stretches

4. get the right trainers for you

5. massage area

6. build up again very, very slowly

7. stop as soon as you feel any pain

that seemed to be the main advice i found after lots of googling.



 I JUST got back to running after almost two months off due to knee pain...I kept trying to run on it and then I rested it for a while and came back too soon a few times and the pain only got worse...I am training for a marathon and started with a 45 mile a week base running 7:40 miles and now I'm just happy to be back (hopefully)

after I finally went to the doctor and MRI showed that I have worn away parts of my kneecap (probably from playing sports) BUT because I have imbalances in my leg, something as simple as switching my sneakers (which I did) set this off where my kneecap was shifting and rubbing against the cartilage and soft tissue...My pain was more Medial (inside) but now it's therapy and a bulky brace for me and there goes making my marathon time goal!

What I suggest is try and find a speciality sneaker store...we have one where they watch you run and walk and find shoes that fit your gait, stride, and arches!Or if you don't have access to a store like that stick with shoes you've never had a problem with...

Good Luck!

I am no doctor, but ever since I switched to "barefoot running" I have had no knee pain. it is not really barefoot, as I wear Vibram FiveFinger barefoot running shoes. 
A number of my fellow runners with knee injuries, especially ITB, have switched and have been able to run painlessly.

if the injury is recurring, or if it just bothers you to be sidelined for that much time, it might be worth considering to take a look at the Vibrams...

It sounds like ITBS to me too. Try pushing a finger (hard) on the bone at the outside of your knee, and then straighten and bend your leg. Does it hurt, or kind of bind up, right when your knee goes through the 45 degree angle?

I know many runners who have had success with foam rolling the outside of their thigh. You lay sideways, with the roller under your thigh, and roll up and down. It is a type of myofascial release and can lengthen/loosen a tight IT band. The rollers are inexpensive, and useful for other areas too.


17 Replies