Running will ruin your knees!

Running will ruin your knees is probably the thing most runners hear most often. When you press someone who makes such a statement (like my mom), they have nothing to back up that statement with. It’s one of those urban myths that all non-runners know to be true and all runners know to be untrue.

Enter ITBand Syndrome
Running hasn’t ruined my knees, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced knee pain. Once I decided to run half marathons, I have dealt with IT Band Syndrome . . . again & again.

Like right now.I have learned a lot and can go months running pain free only to have it pop up with no warning. Like now.

What is IT Band Syndrome (ITBS)?
For a good description, see this page. For me, it starts when the outside of my knee begins to tighten up. That’s basically where I’m at right now. Ignore that, and I’ll end up in pain. Run a half marathon without addressing the issue, and I won’t be able to even walk pain free afterwards.

If you feel pain in your knee cap, that’s more likely runner’s knee which is a different issue.

So what caused my IT to flare up this time?
Good question. There are many possibilities:

  • Running too fast
  • Too many hill repeats?
  • Swimming?
  • Cumulative training this year?
  • Lifting weights that were too heavy?

I don’t know. All I know that my knee has been perfectly fine for months, including 2 hilly halfs in May, and then a couple of weeks ago, after an easy run, I felt it tightening. It seemed fine the next day and I probably should have skipped those hill repeats but I didn’t.

I’ve been swimming because it’s good cross training and I love it. I was doing a mix of breast & crawl until my shoulder started to bother me. Then I switched to all breast stroke. My shoulder is better, but I noticed last week after I swam my knee was very achy. Really? I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to do and it’s actually making things worse? And swimming has never bothered me before.

I do know that I’ve been very careful about not increasing my mileage too much and am running almost half the mileage I was running last summer.

And I want to make sure you realize that I am not in pain — right now, it’s just an on again, off again achy IT Band (my chiropractor agrees with that diagnosis). I’m working hard to not be in pain.

So what can you do about it?
Of course the first advice is always to stop running. Yeah, right. That’s not so easy as you get into the heaviest part of your half marathon training.

The next advice is RICE: Rest (yes, I have taken some days off running); Ice (yes, several times a day); Compression – yes, using tape; and Elevate (yes, again a few times a day). It’s helping, but my knee is not normal yet.

In fact, I decided not to do the 10k I had planned (but not yet registered for) next week, and that makes me sad. There are so few 10ks. We could bring the dogs. There’s free food & it’s a beautiful area. I would’ve met some of the runners from one of the groups I’m in. But it’s a very hilly 10k and it’s not in my best interest right now.

I am also the poster child for doing dynamic stretching before a run and preventative exercises after a run and foam rolling. I like the routines at Strength Running and am pretty religious about doing them. Of course I do slack every once in a while; I’m human.

I switch it up, too, and sometimes do these drills from Another Mother Runner (I did one of their challenges this year).

And yes, I do strength training. They say IT problems are often caused by weak glutes & hips, so yes, I work on these areas a lot.

RockTape & Yamuna Balls
RockTape & Yamuna Balls

My 2 Secret Weapons
Taping my knee allows me to run pain free. I was using KT Tape Pro, but recently tried RockTape, and as I’ve heard, it adheres better. I seriously doubt I would still be running half marathons if I hadn’t started to tape my knee last year.

I don’t always have to tape it, but it’s nice to know it’s there if I need it.

I also do segments of Yamuna Save Your Knees when I’m having a flare up (not an affiliate link & I also did not spend $100 on it, but it was pricey). The full routine is quite long, but it’s also broken down into segments that take only 5-15 minutes & I’ve found it to be really helpful.

Remember, I am not a health care professional. If you are having a problem, seek help from a professional. I am just hoping to share some general information and a few useful tools in my IT toolbox.

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Today I’m joining Erika @ MCM Mama Runs, April @ Run the great wide somewhere and Patty @ My no-guilt life! for Tuesdays on the Run — no scheduled topic, so I thought I would share what I’m battling with right now, hoping to help other runners either prevent or deal with the same issue.

Have you battled IT Band issues? What worked for you? What is your issue?

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22 thoughts on “Running will ruin your knees!

  1. I’m sorry you’re going to have to sit out your 10K. My issue….usually calf/ankle/foot….it’s all connected. Currently all is happy….we’ll see how long that lasts.

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  2. Oh my goodness, I literally feel your pain!!! I am the queen of knee issues. I’ve been in physical therapy twice because of it. When I was in college, I had tendonitis on my right knee… and more recently, I had to take some time off because of pain in my left knee. I still battle to keep my ITBS on both knees under control. So I try to stay on track with lots of stretching and foam rolling, cross training, and hip strengthening work. Fun times!

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  3. My mom says stuff like that. She also likes to point out all the runners who have died while running. It’s rare but it has happened and we had a friend of friend who did five years back and so this is what she says will happen to me because I run so much lol. Gotta love paranoid old parents.

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  4. It’s my hamstring that’s doing this to me at the moment. I always used to get pain in my calves and just have generally tight hamstrings. But last year, I actually pulled my hamstring while running a Parkrun too fast (and on too little training). It made me go flying, and I landed flat on my face in the mud! I then rested for about 6 months… before re-starting running again very gingerly. But I still “feel” that hamstring. It’s not given me pain yet. But it’s always there. I’m going to look at those sites you’ve linked to (strength running and drills). I have been doing a lot of yoga (for me) and I also try and do drills at the start of a run. Am hoping it will all just “magically go away”… but I’m worrying about when I step up miles for the marathon next year….

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    1. I’ve never taken that long off (although I probably should take more), but I did “restart” with C25K after last yr’s fall half. Which worked well . . . until now. Good luck with your hamstring!

      I do a lot of yoga, too.

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    1. I don’t do everything right. I should probably take a bit more time off running, not do the speed work tonight . . . but thanks.

      And I know that I took more time off to heal last fall & it was still painful. Always learning . . .

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  5. The Dr thought I had ITBS….the he thought Runner’s knee…we still don’t know what was causing and sometimes still causes issues in my left knee. I just rest, ice, roll, tape. My biggest issue now is arthritis in the right knee…..uuugh!!!

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    1. It took me a while to figure out but it’s pretty definitely IT for me. So far I haven’t been DNS for a race – even tho maybe I should’ve been.

      I don’t think I have athritis – sometimes not starting running until later in life.

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  6. Judy, I’ve had this a few times in my life. I think I mentioned to you I go to a shorter stride and that helps. But, what I didn’t mention is the foam roller. That made a huge difference. It will hurt so bad to begin with and then you can’t live without it. It works. Mine will get tight sometimes now and I make sure to get that foam rolling done. It got me through 4 half marathons in 21 days this spring. Seriously. If you don’t have one, it’s worth a try.

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    1. When I say I know what to do, I’m not kidding. Yes, I have a foam roller & I’m religious about using it – even though there is actually debate at the moment about whether or not it actually does help the IT Band (there’s thought that the IT band is really too tough & rolling it doesn’t help).

      Seriously, I am the poster child for doing the right thing. And still it flares up. Not after 2 halfs in 1 month & heavier mileage,,oh. No, that would make sense!

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