Recovering from Runner’s Knee

Six weeks ago, I was forced to stop running due to intense knee pain. My doctor advised a complete halt to impactful exercise (running and Jazzercise) and then a gradual return to activity. Three days ago, I’d had it with waiting and went out for a tiny 1-mile run. Most of my body felt fantastic, loving that feeling of jogging once again. My knees weren’t as thrilled and complained for most of the run, but not to the point of making me stop. It was a slow run (the mile took me 11 minutes), but it was a huge improvement over one month ago, when I tried to jog along the sidewalk and didn’t make it 20 yards.

While my knees didn’t like the run very much, by the next morning they felt better than they had in a while. (Even going down stairs had been mildly painful.) My hip flexor, which had also been troubling me, also was greatly improved. It really seems that mild exercise, at least for someone with a sedentary day job like me, is good for the body.

Tonight I went for another 1-mile run, finishing in 9:30. My knees still aren’t at 100%, but there was noticeably less pain this time. I’m encouraged to keep at it.

I found some tips on dealing with runner’s knee, including:

  • Take glucosamine pills. I tried this for a week, and by the end of the week I actually did notice that my knees felt a little better (this was before my resumption of running), *but* my left knee got very swollen (fluid? glucosamine muck?). I have no idea, but after a while the puffiness bugged me enough that I stopped, and it went away. My left knee is the one with the torn ACL. So *maybe* glucosamine is good for joint issues but bad for a torn ligament? No clue.
  • Run on the balls of your feet. This reduces the impact your legs/knees absorb by “50%”, compared to running with a heel strike. It doesn’t feel natural (yet?), but it does feel softer. I put “50%” in quotes because this number appeared in a variety of places but without any data or authority to back it up, so it could just be made up. Running this way may be the same thing as pose running — or at least similarly motivated. So far this feels really weird, but I’m encouraged to keep at it.
  • Run in the street instead of on the sidewalk; asphalt is significantly softer than concrete. Okay, I’ll try that. And be sure to wear super-reflective clothes :)
  • Strengthen your quads. Apparently they absorb a lot of the impact as well, so stronger muscles can help save the knee. Methods for doing so include “quadricep setting” (flexing the quad with the leg stretched out flat in front of you) and (careful) squats. I haven’t tried this yet.
  • Less sitting. Sitting stretches the tendon over the patella, increasing pressure on the irritated part of the knee. I’ve been spending long periods at work standing instead of sitting, or just standing up and moving around periodically. I’m not sure if this is helping directly, but it makes me feel better in general.

Here’s to pain-free running, and building back up to multi-mile runs!

2 of 2 people learned something from this entry.

  1. Nancy Zehler said,

    August 22, 2012 at 5:27 am

    (Learned something new!)

    I used to run but when I started working full time it has been harder to fit it in. I also spend most if my time sitting at work and know that makes it even more important to exercise. My problem now is my hips! I like your tip about running on the asphalt.

  2. Scott Van Essen said,

    August 26, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    (Learned something new!)

    I have to give you m major props for making it to the point where running a mile is now running “only one” mile, and is something your body yearns to do.

    I’m just crossing the threshold from a mile being a near impossible goal to just something that I REALLY don’t want to do, but appreciate afterwards.

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