Stricken with Runner's Knee!

Well, I made it through week 10 of the Higdon training plan without a hitch, but last week I was suddenly struck with a new type of knee pain early into a 7-mile run.

In retrospect I probably should have stopped running as soon as the pain hit, but it seemed to be near the top of my shin so I concluded it was just a shin splint that I could ice when I got back home. I never had shin splints before so I didn't know what they felt like (as I wrote in a previous post, they seem to be very rare for minimalist runners). When I finished my run, however, I poked around my leg and realized that the pain I thought was coming from my upper shin was actually located in the lower outer area of my knee.

I did some icing and stretching and felt no more pain. Actually, it stopped as soon as I stopped running. All seemed well and good until I began a short 4 mile with my running club the next day. I made it about half a block before the pain shot through my knee and I began limping. I bailed out of that run right away.

I quickly made an appointment with the miracle-working chiropractor who cured my ankle pain last winter and met with him earlier this week. He examined me and concluded there was too much tension on the muscles around and behind my knee, which was causing my kneecap to glide incorrectly (from what I've read online, that seems to match the definition for runner's knee, or PFPS). He was confident that an alignment of my legs and back would show improvement. That worked like a charm with my old ankle problem so I was happy to let him do it. Sadly, I've tried to run a couple times since the alignment was done and the pain still persists.

Stricken with Runner's Knee!

The past week has taken me through the full range of human emotions (still working on acceptance). I've spent most of my free time delving into the vast wisdom of the internet to see how others have overcome similar knee pain. Fortunately, there are a lot of success stories out there. Unfortunately, many of them seem to contradict each other. From what I gather, my knee would benefit from stretching and strengthening all my leg muscles, although opinions on what stretches should and shouldn't be done vary greatly. I've already invested in some pricey KT tape and have tried a couple of the different recommended taping patterns with no noticeable improvements. A leg strap didn't help, either, whether it was below the patellar or higher up on my IT band.

I'm doing my best not to panic, but the Maui marathon is in mid-January and I already felt my training plan had little room for failure. So far, I've missed a full week of running from this injury, including a big 15 mile long run last Saturday. I did some long bike rides over the weekend to maintain fitness, pain free. Yesterday I dusted off my old gym membership and hit the elliptical machine for the first time in my life. I used it for 35 minutes with zero knee pain, which boosted my confidence and prompted me to try my luck on a treadmill. I think I made it 0.2 miles before the pain set in full force.

The good news is that I can run very short distances without pain, though nothing remotely close to my training runs. I'm not giving up on the marathon just yet. I've already invested a lot of money into the travel plans so I'm definitely motivated to find a solution. Another doctor's appointment is scheduled for next week and the elliptical trainer is now my new best friend. I'll let you know how things work out.

This wasn't the most positive Thanksgiving I've had, and it's very tempting to be miserable. The fact is, however, that I do have a lot to be thankful for and I'm not going to take it for granted because a running hiatus is threatening my mood. After all, as far as injuries and interrupted life plans go, things could easily have been a LOT worse. There will be other marathons, even in Hawaiiand this one is still on the table.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I hope your Turkey Trots went well!

P.S. - Any tips on how you overcame knee pain are very welcome.

Photo Credits: Copyright 123RF Stock Photo


  1. Sorry to hear about your knee problems! I have been in the same situation and know how frustrating it can be. Sadly, for me I just had to let time do the trick and rest - combined with some strength excercise based on what I learned from: . Can recommend that one. If it is the outer area of the knee - are you sure it is not IT band syndrome? That is what I had and it sounds very similar to what you describe.

  2. Thanks Olle. I'll check out the exercises. I was curious myself if it could be the IT band, but originally ruled it out since the pain was below the knee. I thought IT band pain was only above the knee on the outer side. Now I've come across some stories from people who seem to have ITBS in the same location as my pain, so I'm wondering if it's possible. Either way, I'm doing stretching, strengthening and resting on my IT band along with all the other muscles in my leg to cover all bases.