Running feels great…until it doesn’t. From the most experienced athletes to brand-new runners, anyone can experience unexpected knee pain while running. This type of injury can really put a cramp in your running routine, but it’s important to treat it carefully to avoid damaging the joint. Learn more in this guide with tips for knee pain and how to treat it.
Stop Running Right Away
Running knee pain is more serious than some soreness you might experience afterward. If your knee hurts while running, you should stop and figure out how to treat it.
If your pain is minor, you can try resting it for a few days by staying off your feet as much as possible. During that time, apply ice for 15 minutes a few times a day and take an anti-inflammatory medication. Try elevating your leg if you’re experiencing swelling, and wrap your knee with a bandage if you need extra support.
If the pain is more serious or doesn’t improve after a few days of rest, it’s time to see a doctor. Be prepared to give a description of your pain, including where the pain is located (under, below or to the side of your kneecap), what the pain feels like (sharp and stabbing or a dull ache, for example) and any other symptoms you might be experiencing (swelling, stiffness, etc.). This will help the doctor formulate a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Try an Alternative Exercise Method
If your knee needs more time to recover, you can still continue exercising as long as you choose options that minimize impact for your knee. Here are 3 cardio alternatives to running you should consider:
- Swim laps in a pool
- Use an elliptical machine
- Take a spin class or ride a bike
- Try a rowing machine
- Do yoga
Keep in mind that if any of these activities cause you to feel pain in your knee, you should stop and rest. You may need to take a longer break from exercise for significant knee pain.
Start Back Slowly
Once your knee recovers or your doctor gives you the okay to start running again, it’s important to do it at a slow pace. In fact, it’s a good idea to start with walking and build up to a gentle jog. Continue this over a period of a few weeks, building up your distance and pace until you feel like your knee is strong enough to handle a regular run.
Take Preventative Steps
Now that you’re back to your running routine, there are a few things you can do to help prevent future knee injuries:
- Work on your running form, paying particular attention to how your foot lands so it can absorb more impact with each step.
- Make sure your running shoes have enough support, and use inserts if necessary.
- Run on softer surfaces when possible.
- Warm up before you work out and stretch afterward.
- Wear a running belt so you can carry your phone and call for help if another injury occurs.
Running knee pain is relatively common, so don’t get discouraged if it happens to you. Make sure to see a doctor if you have ongoing running or jogging knee pain that doesn’t improve after several days of rest.