4 causes of knee pain and how to fix them

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Why do you run? Because it feels good. Because it relieves stress. Because it enables you to eat cake. I get that, because running is also important to me. I’m a 32-time marathoner who knows how frustrating it is to be injured. It’s the reason I became a sports doctor. Ripping my anterior cruciate ligament playing football when I was in medical school was devastating, but it was the single most important event to influence my work. It’s what drives me to help my patients. Almost every day I treat runners with achy knees. Many are freaked out: can I still run? Will I have to switch to swimming? Thankfully, most knee problems won’t keep you off the road for long. Here’s what you need to know about common knee injuries.

1/ Runner’s knee

Where does it hurt? Pain under your kneecap that feels worse after running and when you walk up or down stairs.

What’s going on? When the patella moves out of alignment during running, the cartilage beneath it becomes irritated.

Treat it:

  • Reduce mileage
  • Cross-train with activities that don’t aggravate your knee
  • Apply ice for 15 minutes five times a day
  • Take an anti-inflammatory
  • Foam roll your quads
  • If the pain continues, see a doctor

 

Prevent it:

  • Strength train
  • Foam roll daily
  • Shortening your stride can take pressure off your knees. Aim for 170-180 footstrikes per minute

2/ Patellar tendinitis

Where does it hurt? Pain below your kneecap and at the top of your shin; it sharpens on the run. Also hurts going up or down stairs.

What’s going on? The force placed on the knee during running can sometimes put too much strain on the patellar tendon.

Treat it:

  • Stop running until you can do so pain-free; cross-train instead
  • Apply ice for 15 minutes five times a day
  • A patellar tendon strap can reduce pain
  • If it doesn’t improve, see a doctor

 

Prevent it:

3/ Iliotibial band syndrome

Where does it hurt? Pain on the outside of your knee. It usually comes on five minutes into a run and subsides when you’re finished.

What’s going on? The iliotibial band (ITB) runs from your hip to your knee, crossing the knee joint. A fluid-filled sac called the bursa sits between the ITB and the outside of your femur, near your knee. When the ITB is tight, the bursa gets squeezed, causing pain.

Treat it:

  • You can run unless pain forces a change in your form. Reduce your mileage and cross-train
  • Foam roll your ITB on the soft part of your outer thigh
  • If you overpronate, wear motion-control shoes
  • See a doctor if it persists

 

Prevent it:

  • Strong glute and core muscles are key
  • Foam roll your ITB daily
  • A shorter, quicker stride can help. Aim for 170-180 footstrikes per minute

4/ Osteoarthritis

Where does it hurt?

Pain, swelling and stiffness in your knee during running or even day-to-day activities.

What’s going on?

The wearing out of hyaline cartilage (lining of the joint) causes bone to grind on bone.

Treat it:

  • Keep moving. Activity keeps joints lubricated
  • Take an anti-inflammatory
  • Run on soft surfaces
  • See a doctor

 

Prevent it: