How to Treat Knee Pain After Running

Steven B. Cohen, MD October 5th, 2018

Rothman Orthopaedic Institute Features Expert Sports Medicine Care for Runners

Running should make you feel better, not worse.

Of course, running may cause physical exhaustion or muscle soreness due to exertion, but, ultimately, it should contribute to your overall health and wellbeing. When athletes experience serious or recurring knee pain after running, it is likely that there is either an orthopaedic issue at play or that athletic habits and techniques needs to be adjusted.

At Rothman Orthopaedic Institute in Glen Mills, our extensive experience working with runners (both professional and recreational) of all ages has given us particular expertise in recognizing and treating the causes of running knee pain. While a physical examination is needed to provide a proper diagnosis and create a personalized treatment plan, we hope the following guide is helpful in providing a preliminary understanding of the issues that may be causing your knee pain after running and the actions that can be taken to treat these issues.

Causes of Knee Pain After Running

Before considering viable treatments, it’s important to identify the cause of the painful symptoms you are experiencing. If you are suffering from pain localized around the kneecap after running activity or even knee pain after walking, a condition known as patellofemoral pain syndrome (or “runner’s knee”) is likely responsible.

Runners who are exhibiting runner’s knee may feature tissue irritation, degraded cartilage, or strained tendons surrounding the kneecap, causing aching pain. This condition is brought on by the following causes:

  • Athletic overuse

  • Trauma to the patella (fracturing, dislocation)

  • Structural deformity (such as a misaligned patella)

  • Weakened or fatigued thigh muscles

  • Arthritis

  • Flat feet

  • Plica syndrome

  • Synovial plica syndrome

  • Referred pain from hip or back injuries

  • Inadequate muscle conditioning

  • Inadequate muscle stretching

Treatments for Knee Pain After Running in Glen Mills

If you begin experiencing dull, aching knee pain, and associated symptoms (such as inflammation around the knee and popping sounds or sensations,) continuing to run through the knee pain can exacerbate the issue.

Rather, it is critical that you pursue effective treatment promptly. Treatments that are recommended for runners who are experiencing knee pain include the following:

  • Rest and Activity Modification:
    The first step that should be taken for treating runner’s knee is a revamping of your exercise and training plan. This includes temporarily reducing or ceasing running activity. Depending on the severity of your knee injury, low-impact cross-training may be allowed.

  • RICE:
    RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) can help damaged tissues to heal and reduce swelling. Icing should be performed for thirty-minute intervals, an elastic band or sleeve may be used to create compression, and elevating the knee at heart level with the foot further elevated are recommended.

  • Anti-inflammatory Pain Medication:
    While the use of anti-inflammatory pain medications alone is unlikely to produce effective results, it may be recommended as a means of pain management alongside other treatment options.

  • Physical Therapy:
    Physical therapy is advised for many runners dealing with knee pain. Targeted therapies, exercises, and stretches can help to repair and strengthen affected muscles and tissues. A long-term strength-building and stretching regimen will typically be recommended to prevent further injury. Working with a coach or physical trainer who can offer runner-specific advice (such as the recommendation of special running shoes for knee pain) may also be advisable.

  • Surgery:
    Surgery is only needed in serious cases where the knee cartilage is severely damaged or the patella is significantly misaligned.

Our expert physicians understand the particular needs, issues, and goals of runners and are committed to offering the care needed to restore athletic careers that have been interrupted by knee pain after running. If you are an athlete or a coach and are interested in learning more about knee pain treatments or would like to schedule an examination at our Glen Mills office, please visit us here or contact us at 1-800-321-9999.

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