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What Causes Knee Pain When Running?

Alex Paul
Alex Paul

There are a variety of potential causes of knee pain when running, although most are caused by overuse. If the quadriceps muscles are weak, for example, this can also cause the patella to track abnormally and result in pain. The iliotibial (IT) band, which runs down the outer leg, is another source of knee pain, especially if it is too tight. Other causes of knee pain when running include patella tendinitis, an inflamed plica, and an impinged fat pad.

In many cases, knee pain when running is the result of overuse. Runners who increase mileage too quickly are at risk from this sort of injury because the body isn’t able to adapt to the extra strain. Overuse injuries can often be solved through a period of relative rest, although it’s important to see a physiotherapist if the pain returns at a later date.

Some people experience knee pain associated with running.
Some people experience knee pain associated with running.

One of the most common causes of knee pain when running is weak quadriceps muscles. When the knee is working normally, it tracks in its groove and doesn’t cause pain. If the quadriceps muscles are weak, the knee may not track correctly, resulting in cartilage damage and inflammation. This, combined with the repetitive and high impact nature of running, can result in discomfort. Strengthening of the quadriceps muscles, especially the muscle on the inner side of the thigh, should correct the issue and reduce pain.

Inflammation and weak muscles can contribute to knee pain while running.
Inflammation and weak muscles can contribute to knee pain while running.

IT band syndrome can cause pain on the outside of the knee while running. It is a strange injury; the pain may seem to disappear, only to reoccur at a later date. The syndrome is an overuse injury that happens when the IT band, which runs down the outside of the leg, becomes too tight. This causes it to rub over the bone while running, which can lead to inflammation. Treatment involves relative rest, stretching of the IT band, and anti-inflammatory medication.

Many runners sustain knee injuries when pushing their limits.
Many runners sustain knee injuries when pushing their limits.

There are a number of other potential causes of knee pain when running. One of the most common is patella tendinitis, which is an overuse injury resulting in inflammation of the tendon below the knee. Plica, which are folds of tissue found in all joints, can also become inflamed and cause pain in some runners. The area of fat beneath the knee, known as Hoffa’s fat pad, sometimes becomes impinged which results in discomfort. In general, most running injuries heal relatively quickly as long as the runner rests and follows the proper treatment regime.

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    • Some people experience knee pain associated with running.
      By: Martinan
      Some people experience knee pain associated with running.
    • Inflammation and weak muscles can contribute to knee pain while running.
      By: Picture-Factory
      Inflammation and weak muscles can contribute to knee pain while running.
    • Many runners sustain knee injuries when pushing their limits.
      By: Maridav
      Many runners sustain knee injuries when pushing their limits.
    • High-impact aerobics, like running, can cause small tears and sprains in the knee.
      By: Deklofenak
      High-impact aerobics, like running, can cause small tears and sprains in the knee.
    • In most cases, knee pain while running comes from overuse, as runners try to increase mileage too quickly.
      By: yanlev
      In most cases, knee pain while running comes from overuse, as runners try to increase mileage too quickly.
    • Performing squats can help strengthen the quadriceps, or upper thighs, and other muscles of the legs and lower back.
      By: gekaskr
      Performing squats can help strengthen the quadriceps, or upper thighs, and other muscles of the legs and lower back.
    • A physiotherapist can help an athlete prevent knee pain when running.
      By: Monkey Business
      A physiotherapist can help an athlete prevent knee pain when running.