Going for a run shouldn’t leave you questioning your age or your physique. Yes, those constant knee pain during or after a run can make you wonder. But, the thing is, knee pain affects both athletes and non-athletes. So, what causes this pain? A better question is how to prevent knee pain when running? Keep an eye out for the answer.
We will talk about three important things:
- The most common types of knee pain
- How to prevent knee pain
- How to relieve knee pain once you have it
We’ve all experienced knee pain to some degree and it’s a nagging, miserable thing to have hanging over your running experience like a dark cloud. No good.
Before we get into how to prevent knee pain when running, let’s look at two of the most common knee injuries. Knowing what type of injury you have and what caused it is the first step in treating it.
With each strike while running, you repeatedly exert your body weight on both legs. This form of exercise makes your knee prone to injury. In fact, 28% of running injuries occur in the knee, while 26% occur in the ankle.
So, here’s a quick overview of the two most common knee injuries among runners:
1. Runner’s Knee
Although it’s known as a runner’s knee, it doesn’t only occur as a result of running. Also, you might find this type of knee injury referred to as patellofemoral pain syndrome.
The pain starts during or right after the run.
“The pain can progressively get worse and even start to bother you while you’re at rest.”Matthew J Rachwalski, DO.
The pain associated with the runner’s knee is caused by irritated tissues around your kneecap. When you run, the tibia and femur move simultaneously with the patella, this kind of pressure causes this condition.
- Pain in front, behind, or around the kneecap
- Experiencing pain doing activities that require you to bend your knee
- Severe pain when walking downstairs
- Swelling around the knee, hearing popping, or feeling bones grinding in the knee
2. Iliotibial Band Syndrome
If you’re a long-distance runner or even a long-distance walker, you’re at high risk of developing an IT band injury.
It’s caused by continually bending your knee, which is why you can develop it whether you run, walk, hike, or cycle.
The constant friction of the IT band that crosses over the knee is the main issue here. We have a fluid-filled sac on our joints called a bursa that usually ensures a smooth interface between the IT band and the knee.
However, when the IT band tightens, the type of friction to the knee becomes more direct. As a result of the friction, the IT band and bursa become irritated and swell.
- Nagging pain on the outer side of the knee
- Burning or tenderness, as well as redness outside the knee
- Experiencing heat or warmth at your kneecap
- Increase in pain when engaging in any type of activity
How to Prevent Knee Pain When Running?
There are some guidelines that can help us avoid knee injury. We’ve narrowed them down to four easy-to-follow rules:
I started with this step for a reason; it’s the most important step in how to prevent knee pain when running.
Unfortunately, this step is often taken for granted. I’m here to show you how it protects your knee in two ways so you don’t skip it next time.
This step allows the synovial fluid in your knee to be secreted gradually. This happens when you begin with simple movements rather than shocking your joints with sudden, rapid ones.
Synovial fluid will then work its magic in your patellofemoral joint, acting as a shock absorber and friction reducer.
It prepares the key muscle groups that’ll help in protecting your knee. These muscle groups include hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves.
Tip: By focusing on stretching these muscles, you increase your chances of having more stability and control during your runs.
I know how you can get carried away and think you’re ready to go on a 15-mile run next week when you’ve only been doing 5-mile runs.
It’s vital that you work on increasing your mileage safely; no shortcuts here. Overuse is the leading cause of knee injuries, which is why increasing your mileage quickly makes your knee more vulnerable to injury.
Unfortunately, this vulnerability is inevitable, as you didn’t properly condition your muscles or joints to bear longer distances.
You can always follow the 10 to 15% rule for safer mileage buildup. This rule states that you should increase your weekly mileage goal by no more than 10% to 15% each week.
You should do exercises to strengthen your knee as well as the major muscle groups mentioned earlier. For better balance, engage your core and glutes in these workouts.
You don’t have to do much; just 15 minutes of exercise twice a week should suffice. These exercises are quite simple, they include leg lifts, step exercises, standing hamstring curls, etc.
By the time we get home from our runs, all we want to do is lay on our couches, but please, resist this urge.
After running, cool down properly so you don’t end up with hamstring and quad tightness, as well as sore knees.
Having that said, you should develop a post-run routine that includes stretching your muscles. You can also incorporate foam rolling into this routine for an even better cool down. You can get a foam roller relatively inexpensively and it can be a life saver.
How Can You Relieve Knee Pain?
RICE is one of the most effective self-care methods. Unless, of course, medical attention is required, this method can help relieve pain from knee injuries.
Without further ado, let me explain what RICE stands for:
For minor injuries, you should rest for a day or two to allow your knee to heal properly. It goes without saying that more severe injuries will necessitate a longer recovery period.
Ice plays a major role in reducing pain and inflammation. So, wrap an ice pack around your entire knee (a pack of frozen peas will fit the bill!).
Keep the ice pack on your knee for 10 to 20 minutes, but no longer. Leaving the pack for a longer period may risk damaging your skin and nerves.
You’ll need a breathable, anti-slip knee compression sleeve for this step. The sleeve will give your knee the support it needs while also minimizing fluid buildup in injured areas.
Make sure to get the correct size, as the sleeve should be tight but not so tight that it restricts blood circulation.
To help reduce swelling, elevate the injured leg on pillows. This keeps blood in the affected area and helps it heal faster and reduce inflamation.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Here are some of the most popular questions about knee pain:
Q1: How Long Does It Take for Runner’s Knee to Heal?
The average recovery time for the runner’s knee is four to six weeks. However, each case’s healing timeline is unique.
Q2: Can You Strengthen Weak Knees?
To strengthen your knee, perform strengthening exercises and stretches on the muscles surrounding it.
When your muscles are stronger, the pressure on your joints is reduced. This will also provide support for your knee, allowing it to move more smoothly.
Q3: How Often Should I Ice My Knee?
Apply ice three to four times per day for the first 48 to 72 hours. When your knee is injured, an ice pack will help to numb the pain and reduce swelling.
Remember that the ice pack shouldn’t be applied for more than 20 minutes.
How to prevent knee pain when running isn’t as difficult as you’d think. Just take it easy, so you don’t overuse your knee. Also, following a simple pre and post-run routine goes a long way.
Now that you know the importance of these rules, try sticking to them. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!