So…About that Runner’s Knee…

….I’s got itz.

Yeah. It sucks. Goddamn runner’s knee. The bane of every runner. The curse of many people who, like me, are blessed with fantastic genetics (sarcasm) and have knee issues. My brother kindly reminded me that our Grandpa had horrible knee issues (they were replaced several times I think) and so do a few aunts. This is something I need to be mindful of. Knees. You Suck.

So let me back up.

About a month ago I had my annual physical and asked my doctor about the weird knee issues I’d been having. I told her that every once in awhile I have a weird feeling in my knees where it’s like bone-on-bone grinding. It’s been a sporadic and random pain. I’ve experienced it most obviously during some hiking excursions and the descent down a mountain has not been a pleasant feeling. I also had an intense inflammation in my kneecaps after spin class last winter–again SPORADIC. It wasn’t every time, it wasn’t even once a week. It was weird and sometimes painful and I’d ice my knees and take Advil like it was candy. I never gave it much thought because it wasn’t happening very often and in general I felt really good physically. Also the reason why I’ve never really mentioned it on the blog.

I told my doctor about it and asked if I needed to get an MRI or something, or if I should be concerned. She quickly diagnosed me with runner’s knee(aka Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome). She said that it was inflammation in the tissues on the kneecap and since it wasn’t a pain I experienced all the time, she dismissed it. She told me to strengthen my quads (which I found weird considering I bike, swim, hike, run, and lift weights–aren’t my quads strong enough?!?!). I forgot about the conversation because I wasn’t currently having any noticeable knee issues.

I did the Salem metric century and felt AWESOME. Felt great afterward. I was surprised, in fact, that I didn’t have more soreness or fatigue or aches. Then two days later I get the bright idea to go for a run at the gym. I barely did 3 miles and knew that my knees were not happy campers.

I iced my knees after my run and went to bed. I woke up the next morning, they felt back to normal, and then did the 1.75 mile walk across the bridge to work like I do almost every day and half way across the bridge my knees flared up. Yep. They were angry. I spent the rest of the day in discomfort. It hurt to stand. It hurt to sit. It wasn’t excruciating pain, it was more annoying and troublesome than “oh my god this HURTS.” It’s hard to describe.

After work I went to the pool thinking it would help. I started swimming freestyle, my knees aching, and then quickly decided it was time to give my knees a rest. I used the buoy so that I didn’t have to kick or use my legs at all and just got an upper body workout. It was a nice swim, I felt good in the water, I was happy that I could kind of unwind in the pool. I swam 1 mile in 37 minutes, strictly freestyle, and then sat in the hot tub forever. Iced when I got home. Crossed my fingers the inflammation was going down. Took more Advil. Tried to distract myself with TV shows. I need to rest.

Part of me wants to tighten the reigns, reduce my calories, be mindful of what I’m eating, make those hard choices that suck (“Yes, I’ll pass on dessert tonight” and “no thanks, just water for me”)…and the other voice in my head is saying “Honey, you’ve been here before and you did NOT gain weight when you had to stop running. In fact, you lost weight.”

I think there is a happy medium in there somewhere. Yes, I need to be a little more mindful of my calories. But, I know I can do some activities while I let my knees heal, however long that is. I can lift weights (upper body only) and swim and be as content as can be (been there, done that).

I’m trying to look at this situation as not a permanent, heartbreaking thing like how I felt with my ITB injury two years ago. When that happened and my doc said stop running for two months, I fell into a depression that lasted about two weeks and I pulled myself out of it by starting to lift weights. I’m hoping that this time around I have the skills to NOT slip into that depression and stay positive as I heal. I could definitely use some encouraging words, if you’ve experienced this and came out a winner! 

The plan right now is to take a break from running and the bike. I’m actually ok with taking a break from cycling because I did it so much this summer. I’m ready for a change. I am bummed about the running. I was kind of looking forward to making the switch to that this fall.

QUESTION: Tell me some good stories of healing!

Author: Lisa Eirene

About Lisa Eirene Lisa lost 110 pounds through calorie counting and exercise. She swims, bikes, runs, hikes and is enjoying life in Portland, Oregon. Her weight loss story has been featured in First Magazine, Yahoo Health, Woman's Day and

21 thoughts on “So…About that Runner’s Knee…”

  1. My latest injury/situation was sciatica caused by gluteal weakness. After targeted PT, I came back stronger and a faster runner. Treat the injury, get faster, kick ass.

  2. I experienced some knee trouble when I first started running. I would ice them, wear a brace on the one that hurt the most, and pop Advil, too. Then I got new sneakers and, since then, haven’t had any major pain at all! If I do run extra-long distances, like 8 miles or more (when training for a half), I still wear the brace and ice my knees. I think just doing that regularly helps them heal and supports them when needed. I think you’ll be fine with this because you know you have other forms of exercise that you can do, that you enjoy doing, so you won’t let yourself get down. There’s so many active things to do besides running! Do those things that you can for now, give yourself time to heal, and you’ll be back at it before you know it!
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    1. Thank you Jennifer! I’ve been swimming a lot and lifting weights. I’m going to yoga tonight. I do have a lot of other activities I can do. It’s just sucks feeling “defective.” Hopefully PT helps.

  3. Sorry you are having this problem! I have chondromalacia. You should hear my knees. They sound like rice krispies when I flex them! Strengthening the muscles around my knees has helped with that, especially the hamstrings. Women tend to be quadcentric and that puts a lot of load on the knees.

    Now my back issue is another thing all together and I have had to learn to deal with a permanent injury from that, which sucks, but you just have to accept it when it happens.
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    1. That sounds awful, Lori! Do you experience the pain while cycling at all?

      I wouldn’t be surprised if my hamstring are weak. That’s where I am usually sore when I workout hard. My quads aren’t usually that sore. I will know more Friday after my PT appointment. If I am imbalanced, I’ll do whatever exercises will fix that. I’m just bummed I can’t bike or run. Fall is the best time for that here. 🙁

  4. I had terrible runner’s knee for a while a year/2 years ago. I stopped running (for a number of reasons) and worked on my all around fitness through all different classes and workouts (which it sounds like you’re doing) and now I can run without pain, although I don’t run much because I discovered other workouts I like more, so it was actually not a bad thing.

    Good luck in PT, I’ve been to see some terrible physical therapists and one amazing physical therapist. I highly suggest not stopping until you find an amazing one. Mine listened to what I wanted to do (get back into boxing, be able to do push-ups again) and gave me exercises specifically targeted to that goal. She also had me ease into regular workouts and about two months after my wrist surgery I was back to punching!

    1. That’s very encouraging news, thank you! I’ve also had bad experiences with PTs before and I will most definitely keep going until I find a good one. It’s important to me that they are athletes themselves because I can’t tell you how many so-called doctor’s “cure” for various injuries was “just stop running.” That’s not a cure!

    1. I’ve had a similar experience as you, Michelle. My last injury a few years ago lead me to grow to love weight lifting. It was actually a good thing for me. It’s hard to see that in the MOMENT, though…

  5. Hi! Thanks for commenting on my blog…it led me to you! I don’t know about runner’s knee (although my knees occasionally ache after running – but 5 miles is my MAX). But I had back surgery in December 2011 and remember having the same thoughts as you. Long story of trying to fix it short, 6 months later I opted for surgery. The doc told me four weeks minimum of not lifting more than 5 pounds, no driving (I work full-time in an office), no running/exercise other than walking. I had been working with a personal trainer for 7 straight years plus running & other various cardio. I had just dropped a few pounds for my wedding and was feeling great when I suffered a bulging disc. I thought my world would come crashing down and I’d turn into a human blimp….and surely I would go broke without pay.

    But I couldn’t walk to my mailbox.

    So I had the surgery, I followed the doctor’s orders (VERY important!), I recovered quickly, and I have lost and kept off an additional 4 pounds. There are some activities I still can’t do or avoid at the gym and I cut back on the number of days a week I work out….but I am just fine. Don’t let your mind override what your amazing body can do for you! 🙂
    Kristen @ The Balanced Bowl recently posted..Foods to Boost Mood and Fight Depression

    1. I’m sorry to hear about your struggle. It definitely sounds like a challenge (no driving?!) but I’m glad to hear that you healed quickly. I will definitely be following the doctor’s orders!

  6. I feel your pain! I sprained my left quad muscle a week ago. Apparently it is a very hard muscle to sprain, and I am very talented. Anyway, the original diagnosis was 6 weeks off anything leg related, which included running and leg weights. I must be a good healer, because as of yesterday I am allowed to start light leg weights (to rehab the muscle) and as long as there is no pain I can start walk/running again when I am ready. So, yay! The moral is, maybe you’ll heal quicker than you thought?

    Also, does your gym have a boxing class? GREAT cardio workout and my leg didn’t hurt at all.

  7. I had patella femoral syndrome in both knees. I initially went the PT route with some success. Anytime I would increase my activity, my knee pain would flair up. Using a foam roller on the IT band helped a bunch. I focused on the lateral side of my knee. Keeping your knee bent intensifies the stretch. I finally broke down and had a lateral release on each knee. The surgery was super easy. I got off the recovery table and walked to the car. I was taking spin classes five weeks later. Once you have exhausted your other treatments, don’t be afraid of the surgery route. I am so happy I did it. Just make sure you see a physical therapist after surgery. You want to make sure you heal properly and regain strength appropriately.

  8. I had joint pain ( knees) and some plantar facitits. About 10 days after I cut out all grains , especially wheat, things got noticeably better. Paleo/Primal style of diet is meant to be low inflammatory.

    The Paleo solution or the Primal Blue Print books are good reads. Also, by cutting grains I can keep my carbs lower, which makes weight maintnence much easier. I’ve found through tracking at my fitness pal,that my carb weight maintenance window is very narrow. This explains why I was not successful in the past with long term goal weight maintnence. The decrease in inflammation is a bonus to toss in there.

    Good luck. I know you can modify your diet to match your activity level. Hope everything heals up quickly.
    Karen P recently posted..Coffee Day 2012- Celebrate!

  9. I have terrible, terrible knees. They are part of the reason I find running to be difficult, but I’ve done it anyway (not for a while now, though). Like you, my knee pain is random and sporadic…I thought it was only me! I get tendonitis fairly often when I run. In terms of healing, icing and Advil are your best friends. When I had some physiotherapy, the therapist said that I had to do wall sits and strengthen my quads, and my husband says the same thing to me all the time, too. Best of luck with the knees…rest up and drink lots of water!
    I ❤ 2 Eat recently posted..The Good Kind of Domino Effect

  10. Thanks for writing about this, and I found the graphic very clear and helpful. What gets me about knee injuries is how quickly they can pop up and become a major factor in your life. Before this year (I am 41), I hadn’t had any knee problems, despite carrying way too many pounds. This year I hurt my knee playing softball (and running some intervals to try to get in shape for softball, ironically.) And it’s persistent. Even walking hills has been touchy. Biking seems to help, as it stimulates blood flow without the impact. I think you’re definitely on the right track that muscle strength around the knee is closely related. I had both calf and hamstring pulls before my knee really got to a bad place. Good luck with your knees!

    1. I wish I could remember where I found the picture because it’s so helpful. It cleared up a lot of stuff for me in terms of issues I’ve had with my knees. Like you, I didn’t have knee issues despite carrying over 100 pounds (other than some joint pain) so it’s kind of a surprise to be healthy, fit and have issues. Glad biking helps you! My hope is that I can get back to biking soon (probably sooner than the running I imagine).

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