Runner’s Knee

{For an update on my runner’s knee, please see this post from 2/2013}

While I was training for the Baltimore Marathon, I started to occasionally have some slight pain and stiffness in my left knee when I was running.  It would come and go and was never the type of pain that made me have to cut a run short.  I always thought it could have something to do with running with the stroller because I tend to push mostly with my left hand.  Maybe I exert more effort on that side of my body and therefore put more pressure on that knee.  I do try to vary which hand I use to push it, but I use the left more frequently out of habit.

Lately, my knee has been feeling a bit worse.  The pain is a dull aching that starts to creep up during about the second mile of a stroller run and sometimes around the same time on a solo run, but other times not until about mile 6 of a long solo run.  Since it’s been bothering me more lately, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and call the doctor this week.  The office I called was able to fit me yesterday.

Zain hung out with grandma while I headed to the doctor.  I was so nervous.  I didn’t think anything was seriously wrong with my knee because it’s more of a stiffness and dull pain than it is sharp pain.  I just always get nervous when I go to the doctor.  I’m a wimp :).

As I sat in the exam room waiting for the doctor to come in, this was staring at me from across the room:

Knee injuries, huh? Maybe I’ll take a closer look…

Nope, no no no…sit back down. Don’t read that.

When I was reading about the scary knee problems and looking at the pictures, I thoroughly freaked myself out.

The doctor came in and asked me 5 million questions about what was going on, my running, etc.  Then I laid on the table and he bent my leg every which way and asked me if I had pain when he poked around in different spots.  I sat back up and he said the diagnosis is Runner’s Knee.  Phew.  That was what I was hoping for out of the range of knee injuries that it could have been.  I asked him if it was okay for me to keep running and he kind of rolled his eyes and asked me if I’d really stop if he told me to.  If he did say I needed to stop, I promise I would, but I wouldn’t be happy about it :).  He compared Runner’s Knee to tennis elbow and gave me some ideas to treat it.

  • Make sure my shoes aren’t worn out.  I had actually hoped this was the problem back in December, but I got new shoes for Christmas and they didn’t make a difference in my knee pain.  He also suggested adding extra cushioning to my shoes in the form of heel cups.  I’m not sure yet if I’m going to try that.
  • Run on softer surfaces.  He told me he knew that running 20 miles around the track would suck but it would be better for my knee.  Um, I’m not running 20 miles around the track.  I would literally lose my mind! I don’t mind attempting some shorter runs around the track though.  He also said running on the treadmill would be better for my knee as well.  I’m not a huge fan of the treadmill because I have trouble staying motivated to run on it and I also don’t feel like I get the same quality run that I do outside.  I’ll have to suck it up and treadmill it once or twice a week.
  • Take a break.  He said skipping just a few days of running isn’t going to make it better.  It might give me some relief for a few days, but I need complete rest for 4-6 weeks for it to heal.  He said I can continue to run now and I can run the marathon, but after the marathon, I should take some time off.
  • Cross-train.  He said not to bother using an elliptical machine because it wouldn’t give me enough of a workout.  He said I’d get a better workout biking or using a stair machine.  I also need to strengthen and stretch my quads really well.
  • Wear a Patellar Tendon Strap on my knee.  I had tried this before and it didn’t help.  Maybe I didn’t wear it correctly or the band I had wasn’t the best fit for me.  He showed me the band they recommend and a tech fit me for one.  I think this one might actually work much better for me because the part that goes under the knee cap is softer and fits really well.  Sidenote: apparently, I have huge knees because I needed a size XL!

Please make my knee feel better!

  • I’m also going to try using KT Tape at the recommendation of some my running tweeps.

I’ve thought a lot about what the best thing is to do to get through this injury.  I really don’t want to drop out of the marathon.  I’ve worked really hard in my training and my fundraising for Team in Training.  The doctor said I’m not in danger of the tendon rupturing because I’m young and it’s pretty uncommon for that to happen to runners.  So I’m going to keep running.  I’m going to have to accept that I might have to scale back my miles a little bit.  I’m also going to accept that I might not be able to achieve my ambitious time goal this time around.  That’s okay with me.  I’m not trying to qualify for Boston or win any awards – I really do just want to finish.  Hopefully, I can still set a new PR, even if it’s only by a few minutes.

If I feel like my knee is getting worse, I’ll re-evaluate and make some decisions.  For now, I’m just going to keep on trucking!

Have you ever had an injury? What was your treatment plan?

Happy running!


  1. Meghan says

    Glad to hear you can still run, but running around a track seems just awful. I am getting over Planter Fasciitias and I had to stop running for over a month. While it completely sucked it so much better while I didn’t run. I couldn’t even walk without pain before, so after numerous trips to the podiatrist, I finally just had to stop the running and it did the trick.

    Good luck with your treatment and training.

  2. says

    Whew on still being able to run! Sorry that you’re going through this right now, though, with your race getting closer and closer! I used KT tape during my marathon for a (slight) meniscal tear and it really helped. Good luck with training!
    Anne recently posted…Family runningMy Profile

  3. says

    I tripped last summer – early August – while running in a park. Didn’t fall or anything, but felt kind of stiff the next day. I was overtraining (when I look back), and figured it was just b/c I did more miles. My first half marathon proved how wrong I was – the hip pain was awful – my first hill (maybe going from 80 ft to 100 ft – not major) killed me and I walked 12 of the 13.1 miles overall. I scaled back bigtime on the running, basically got lazy, and by November I could actually run maybe 2 miles without hip pain. I went back to the C25K program preparing my my most recent half and finally little to no pain. I run/walk now vs flat out run which I think helps, and I increase the walk intervals if the hip flares up a bit. But it was a pain, and painful. ugh.

  4. says

    Wow-I’m finally in the hotel and can comment. It seems like so long ago I tweeted. Anyways-

    The band has really helped me a lot with my runner’s knee. I guess it runs in the family because my brother has a pretty severe case and his never went away (even with time off) but he is also growing.

    My normal routine for my knee goes something like this:
    ice in the morning and in the evening for about 30 minutes
    Foam roll in the evening.

    I have found that the band really helps a lot too especially when I’m running but I have to have it wicked tight and right on the tendon that hurts,

    I don’t know-some days are worse than others but some days it never hurts at all. I hope it gets better for you! :)

    • Kristen says

      Thank you for sharing your experience! I’m glad the band worked for you. I’m going to give it a try today and cross my fingers it helps. I also need to be better about icing. I don’t have a foam roller yet, but maybe I need to get one. I just read so much about how the foam roller hurts that I’m scared, lol :).

  5. Amanda says

    This was really helpful! I’ve been having knee problems and I have a half-marathon to run in less than a month! I will be continue to train and run up to the marathon and then take some time off…then maybe see a doctor :0 Anyhow, thank you for the great advice. Cute website :)

  6. Melissa Fleury says

    How is the band working for you?  I tried using one in the past (for gym workouts, no running) and it never made a difference for me.  I’ve had runner’s knee (both knees, but left is worst of the two) for years now… Looong before I ever became a runner.  Ironically, my knees have gotten better since running.  I figure it’s largely due to the fact that I’ve dropped about 50 lbs along the way. ;)  Even still, I have also found that even though I’m running a longer distance now (still peanuts in comparison to your runs), I have virtually no knee pain since switching to a more minimalist shoe.  From what I’ve read on various blogs, it doesn’t seem as though I’m the only one finding relief from injuries by actually running with less cushion, instead of more.  I have two pairs of Skechers GoRun shoes and LOVE them!  Check out this review (by a serious runner vs. a newbie like me!)  There are so many schools of thought of this topic, but this is what has worked for me, and my knees are totally jacked up.  lol  They will often slip off track and lock (ouch!) even while I’m sitting in a chair.  Pathetic, no?  So, I sort of feel like, if I can run pain free in this type of shoe, chances are lots of other runner’s knee folks can too.  :)  Good luck!

  7. Lynn in MD says

    I had the pain/tightness you described for awhile… and I tried to brush it off.  Finally it got to the point where it was painful to even run a few feet (although the pain seemed to diminish as I warmed up and ran more… but then returned later and bothered me on stairs, while sitting, etc.)  Anyway, I was diagnosed with patellar tendonitis and ended up taking a month completely off from running (Clydes 10K was supposed to be my 1st 10K race too… but I had to watch from the sidelines while my BIL ran with my bib).  I’m finally now easing back into running and things feel better – but not perfect yet.  I was able to run the IG 5K yesterday pain-free (with my knee taped up by my therapist).

    Anyway, I see you wrote this awhile ago.  I’m curious what worked for you… and if you’re running now with anything on your knee, or if you’re all better?

  8. dave says

    I know this post is rather dated, but I wanted to chime in since the site is still a high result in Google searches. The physician’s advice the OP received was unfortunately rather typical, but extremely poor. It is the kind of “running advice” that leads to worse injury.

    What the doctor “should” have prescribed is physical therapy, preferably with a therapist with a running focus. It doesn’t sound like the doctor investigated the patient’s physical abilities such as muscular strength, flexibility, or administered any balance tests. Poking a person’s knee and asking “does this hurt” will tell anyone inflammation is present, but not reveal the cause or suggest an appropriate treatment. I know from experience, as I was diagnosed with a badly tracking patella on my right leg which led to inflammation. The root cause was over-developed outer quads, out of balance with weak inner-thighs and glutes. This is VERY COMMON among people who have recently taken up distance training, or significantly increased distance or intensity in their training. A patellar tendon strap was useful for me in the short term, but ONLY when paired with a strength training program targeting the problem muscles. In two months I was cured, and the strap was no longer necessary. If I had simply strapped something on my knee to “make the pain go away” and “just kept running” I would have made the muscle imbalance worse, and perhaps never gotten over it. On top of that, I might have permanently damaged the cartilage lining my patella. All this is to say that running injuries are complicated and a root-cause analysis is crucial. You will not get a proper root-cause from your general practitioner, from your podiatrist, or from the kid at the shoe store who videotapes you for 5 minutes on a treadmill and tells you to buy Asics trainers. Just “buying new shoes” or “running on the treadmill or softer surfaces” is useless “drive-by” advice. The “heel cups” advice takes the cake. That has to be one of the worst things I’ve ever heard from a physician. If anything, if you want to solve a running form problem, go barefoot and listen to your body. I’ll wager the original thought about the left-arm swing creating the right-knee imbalance is closer to the truth. Listen to your own body and get good PT work when needed.


  1. [...] conclusion is that my body sucks sometimes.  In 2012, I’ve been diagnosed with runner’s knee (which I still have), dealt with pain on the outside of my ankle/foot and now the pain on the [...]

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