Ouch! Runner’s Knee

woman runner bent with knee pain

In the spirit of following my own beloved tradition, I’ve managed to screw something brand-new up with a self-improvement activity.

This time, I’ve conveniently developed a really popular one in the running world: My knees frigging hurt.

Now granted, I’m no small girl. Currently I clock in at 199 pounds. So that can’t help a whole lot. Do keep that in mind.

But in my research (which tends to extend to something like 3AM as I frantically type on my Kindle and yell “damn it, why do you keep tossing me out of the Google? Blow me, Bing!”), I’m discovering that even slender runners can get…

…runner’s knee.

Before we go any further…


Possible Reasons for Runner’s Knee

Again: my research is not limited to people who know anything and is largely caffeine-driven. But I did find out the following, which I’ll put in layan’s terms, as I understand them.

First, here’s what the inside of the knee looks like, except not a drawing.

Too Much Vigorous Running, Too Soon Can Cause Pain

I know: duh. But why?

It’s all down to anatomy.

Tendons and ligaments hold things in place, especially around an otherwise loosey-goosey, potentially creaky weight-bearing thing like the knee. Ligaments attach one bone to another, and tendons attach muscle to bone.

Ligaments aren’t really meant to stretch at all, and tendons have only a small amount of “give.” If you’ve worked up to running or some other repetitive set of movements involving the legs, you may already have things working as a well-oiled machine, so to speak, but if you hit the ground running (ha! See what I did there?) unprepared, you can put such sudden stress on this system of bone, tendons, ligaments and muscle that you can cause yourself pain or injury.

Even if you don’t actually hurt yourself, you could still experience a lot of achiness after or even during running. The culprit in this case is probably…

Inflammation. Darn Youse, Infllammation! Darn Youse to Heck!

(Jay & Silent Bob reference there…never mind.)

Unless you’re tearing something up – the absolutely remotest suspicion of which ABSOLUTELY warrants a visit to the doctor – most of your pain post-running probably comes from inflammation.

Even if the pain is actually caused by friction, improper running form, less “cushioning” between the elements of the knee due to aging or one’s work, cartilage loss from past injury, or a chronic condition like arthritis, inflammation might still be the issue, because in any of these cases fluid will hurry over to try to protect the area.

The fluid pushes stuff against stuff and the resulting pressure can cause pain.

Muscle Strength and Muscle Flexibility

As you can see from the diagram near the top of this article, the blah anterior blah ligament, yadda hooey-dooey kneecap ligament thingie, the bones, and whatever other gory shit is sitting in there all work together in a fascinating and beautiful feat of biological engineering.

But ONLY if, barring other issues, the muscles are strong AND flexible.

Muscles can actually shorten temporarily if they don’t think you need them consistently. Then when you call them to sudden, intense action, you can get a “pulled” muscle which may take you out of commission for a while.

The problem is, muscles don’t just move your legs, they also help support all that internal structure so it doesn’t wobble and hurt. You need those muscles to be in reasonably good shape.

By extension you also need strong abs, strong and flexible glutes and leg muscles, a strong, flexible spine, and flexible hips.

This means you have to stretch for “give,” and strengthen for…strength. (I’m sorry. I’m kind of out of interesting word combinations at this point.)

And folks, there’s one other factor for some of us…I’m really, really sorry about this:

Your Weight

No, I’m not going to nag. TRUST me. I’m in zero position to do so.

But it bears (ha ha again!) saying that the more weight you’re putting on your knees, the more potential there is for your knees to scream at you for mercy.

When you walk, you’re distributing your weight fairly evenly over both legs. But when you run, you’re technically hopping from one foot to the other, over and over again.

You’re putting your full body weight plus a compounding “weight” of force onto ONE leg (and therefore, knee) at a time, and…ow.

What I’m Doing About It

I can’t title this “What You Should Do About It” because I have no clue. I don’t know you, your knees, your experiences, any health conditions you may have, how flexible you are, or anything else about you, except that you are AWESOME for reading my blog. (And I love you.)

Here’s what I’ve been trying so far to combat my sore knee issue:

  • Gently stretching before and after my runs, per a lot of Youtube videos
  • Focusing on my front thighs – my quadriceps – which a lot of Youtubers say is largely responsible for front thigh and knee pain
  • Doing some gentle strength training exercises I found on Youtube, focusing on my lower body and my back
  • Using ibuprofen for pain, because Youtubers say acetaminophen doesn’t address inflammation
  • Running every other day and doing Youtube strength training in between
  • Wearing this big thigh sock thingie that’s made especially for seriously huge people like me – I found a brand on Youtube
  • Using a thigh roller to loosen stuff up or whatever…I can’t remember, I saw somebody use one on Youtube
  • Not listening to my doctor who keeps screaming stuff like, “Please, please for the love of God tell me you are NOT getting your health and running safety information from Youtube. Just tell me that! Just so my hair doesn’t fall out from the stress. ‘k? Think you can do that much? Yeah, sure, what am I thinking…probably not. WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME, MELANIE? I fire you as of this moment. Find another doctor! I don’t care if your knees fall off, I am DONE” because you know…I uh, must have missed that message
This simple movement at the side of a steep cliff holding onto one leg which pitches you forward, folding the leg up as high as possible to pull tendons that probably aren’t very stretchy yet while relying on the other leg for your entire body balance, to be performed at sunset is one method of conditioning your quadriceps. Alternatively, you might try this pose at home using something stable for balance.

That’s my story so far. And yes, I’m feeling better.

I’ll cover the brace I’m using, the roller I’m using and probably other information in future posts, but if I forget…remind me! Oh heck, just talk to me at all because I LOVE you guys.

Remember: all joking and puns aside, always, always stay safe and listen to your body. And yes…call your doctor before you start running, or any sort of physical exercise. That much is NOT a joke. At all.

Stay safe, and good health to you!

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