A PT's Guide to Running With Knee Problems
Aug 19, 2019
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If you're a runner, chances are that you've experienced knee pain a few times over the years. If you haven't, count yourself lucky! But since so many runners do experience knee issues from time to time, we spoke with Gary Schneider, PT and DPT at OrthoCarolina, to learn more about what kinds of knee isssues runners often experience, which are okay to run through (and which aren't), and more.
What kind of knee problems are common for runners?
"Overall, research shows that the knee is the most common area for runners to have complaints," said Schneider. "These can be issues with muscles or tendons, ligament, bones, or the actual joints themselves. The medical terms of the more common problems are going to be things like tendinopathy/tendinitis, patellofemoral syndrome, ligament strains, osteoarthritis, and meniscal injuries."
What are knee issues that are okay to run with?
"Generally, your knee should tell you when it is okay to run and when it is not. It is okay to run with all of the ‘common’ issues listed above," Schneider explained. "What I recommend runners do is alter aspects of their running to allow the irritation to calm down. We can alter things like distance per run, distance per week, dosage per week, surface, shoes, incline and decline, speed, etc. Playing with these factors will help manage the knee irritation without having to stop running (which most runners aren’t open to, anyway)."
What are knee issues that are NOT okay to run with?
"Really the only issue I can think of would be a stress fracture, but those aren’t typically in the knee," Schneider said. "A stress fracture is typically a very focal point of what feels like a severe bruise, and increased pain with repetitive pressure/stress on the area. Otherwise, we are just listening to our knees. If the knee says, 'I need some time off because it is hard to even take a short jog right now,' then we’ll rest a few days".
What are workouts you can do instead of running, if you are experiencing knee pain?
"All runners should be doing some kind of strength training. It is vital to keep muscles strong in order for them to endure the demands of running, so lifting weights is always on the table This is going to be one of the best forms of prevention," said Schneider. "Otherwise, when you’re dealing with knee irritation, knees tend to like lower impact aerobic activities like swimming or biking... It is very important to keep moving regardless, and maintaining strength and activity even when you aren’t able to run is crucial."
How should you address knee issues, if you are experiencing them?
"This is probably the key question when dealing with knee irritation, and each case is going to be individualized so there is not really a steadfast rule," Schneider admitted. "Commonly, runners don’t want an injection or pill, because they understand that’s just a temporary fix. Generally, a physical therapist is the best option for breaking down movement patterns... You want someone well trained in the field who frequently sees runners and emphasizes your autonomy. The goal should be to get you the tools to handle your knee so that you can use the tools (typically an exercise regimen) to ease back into running like you want to."
Learn more about making healthy choices from the experts at OrthoCarolina
Whether you've recently experienced an injury, need help with recovery after tough workouts, or are simply experiencing chronic pain and need help managing it, OrthoCarolina can help. Make an appointment at a location near you to start getting the treatment you need.