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Knee Pain When Running – Causes and Treatment

Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.

Knee pain when running affects all people especially those who frequently indulge in the activity. Knee pain usually occurs when one increases running distance by 40 kilometers or greater every week. Typically, knee pain is accompanied by clicking or crunching sound when one starts running.

This can be very disappointing. The pain may also get exacerbated especially when running downhill.


Muscle Imbalance

Knee pain does not really have something to do with the structures surrounding the knee cap. This is rather caused by the imbalance of the muscles in the legs and the feet. Basing on the anatomy of the knee, the knee cap typically moves up and down in a smooth manner so as to keep the balance in every stride.

Once the legs and feet muscles fall out of balance, there’s a huge tendency that the knees will go off the track leading to the grinding of the cartridge against the knee cap.

Weak Quadriceps

When the hamstrings overpower the quadriceps, knee pain may usually result. This is because the quadriceps fails to keep the knee cap in balance and as well as prevent them from pulling and bending. When there is also over pronation of the foot or foot imbalance, knee pain may also result.

The pain may be aggravated especially when you decide to increase your mileage speed and also when you run on uneven surfaces.

Problems with the Tibialis Anterior Muscle

The knee pain being complained about by some runners are usually felt inside the knee. This becomes a severely excruciating pain that even putting on your shoes becomes so unbearable. The pain can also be associated with some problems and injuries in the surrounding tendons.

Other Causes

Here are the remaining probable causes of knee pain:

  • Wide hips
  • Sublaxting patella
  • Weak Vastus Medialis


Ice Pack

Cold compresses and ice packs are initially helpful in treating knee pain. Usually, some runners would just take a wet towel that has seated on the fridge over time.

However, it is highly recommended that you use commercially prepared ice packs since these can offer a more focused pain relief. It is also suggested that you alternately use cold and warm compresses to hasten the healing of the soft tissue damage.

Anti-inflammatory Medications

One of the targets of knee pain treatment is to provide relief to swelling. Anti-inflammatory tablets are effective in reducing swelling. Keep in mind to take these medications with meals and avoid taking it before running.

Quadriceps Strengthening Exercises

Since one of the causes of knee pain can be directly linked to weak quadriceps, it is imperative that quadriceps will be strengthened through certain exercises. There have been studies conducted recently and among its findings is that retro-running would help strengthen both the quadriceps and the hamstrings to promote stability.

Retro-running is defined as running or walking backwards. It is also suggested that when you indulge in running or walking exercises, you do it gradually. You also have to look for a smooth and flat surface where you can walk or gently jog. When doing the routine, you need to alternate your neck position so as to prevent strain.

Retro-running exercises should also be limited to two sessions in a week and the distance should only be from 50 meters gradually increasing up to 500 meters. Be also cautious of your running movements since these may also bring about knee pains. This would also help speed up the recovery process. Now that you know something about knee pains, it would be easier for you to deal with it.

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