a spikely joint
June 23, 2014 4:12 PM   Subscribe

I've been having knee pain recently resulting from physical activity. Will it get better with time, or do I have to choose between accepting it and taking a long break?

Late 20s, male, ~15 pounds overweight but reasonably fit.

About a month ago, I finished a long-distance walking trip where I walked 20-30 miles per day for a month, without any rest days. I definitely felt it in my joints each day after finishing, but it seemed pretty temporary and when I started walking in the morning my little aches and pains usually felt more muscular than joint-wise.

Fast-forward to the past couple of weeks, I've been taking martial arts classes 3x/week, which I've really been enjoying. It involves a loooot of knee-dipping/bending but I take that pretty easy. I haven't been feeling much pain during class, but I've been randomly getting kind of intense knee pain in the past few days. It's weirdly transient, not a soreness like when you lean into an overworked joint. I'll just be sitting there and all of a sudden I'll feel a surprisingly sharp and achey pain in there. Once or twice I've even been woken up by it.

I'd hate to think the solution is "stop stressing your knees" because I really want to keep up this exercise. I don't know if the walking trip is a factor here but it seems likely. However, I basically gave myself a month of rest afterwards and if that's not sufficient I don't know what would be.

If I just keep on doing what I'm doing, exercising my knees but taking it easy on them, will the pain eventually clear up? Or is this the sort of thing that just gets worse and worse? Any suggestions for self-treatment are most welcome. Thanks!
posted by threeants to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Maybe see a physio. I had something similar, and it proved to be ligaments etc being pulled out of their proper alignments by muscles that were not properly balanced due to exercising specific groups more than others. Along with some amazingly painful massage, the physio gave me exercises to build up even muscle around the knees, insoles to help get my feet into better habits, lots of stretching and yoga - we sorted it out in the end, though it took about 12 months to go completely. But I can run again!
posted by tardigrade at 4:51 PM on June 23, 2014

Do you do any foam rolling?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 5:20 PM on June 23, 2014

Also, nice thread title!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 5:21 PM on June 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

do you know it's your knee? I had pain that felt like my knee but the gym trainers said it was prob my IT band. Foam rolling and this yoga class (online video) for the IT band worked for me.

Don't foam roll your actual knee, though. Ask one of the martial arts trainers, they should know how to instruct you in foam rolling.
posted by sweetkid at 8:03 PM on June 23, 2014

I have also had knee pain that seemed random like yours and turned out to be an IT band problem. (If you have this, you will feel the pain inside your knee joint, but the IT band which runs up the outside of your thigh is the problem and will be tight and sore to the touch. I'm pretty ok right now but my IT bands still feel tender if I apply moderate pressure.) Foam rolling helps me in the short term, but what really helps me not have the knee pain in the first place is doing barbell squats and deadlifts, which work your whole leg so all the muscles surrounding your knee get stronger and support it better.
posted by clavicle at 8:45 PM on June 23, 2014

TLDR: You've probably overdone it a bit but you should be fine.

A physio is the best person to ask about this, but it doesn't sound surprising to me that you might have some twinges after exercising so heavily recently -- especially if it's a significant, sudden step up from your usual routine.

Go with the physio's advice, but FYI it may involve some rest along with/followed by light, restorative exercise such as swimming or cycling, and then some specific instruction on how to handle the issue including better/more appropriate technique for the type of exercise that you're doing, and perhaps e.g. the temporary use of knee-supports.
posted by Drexen at 4:11 AM on June 24, 2014

It could be a temporary aggravation, which will get better with rest.

I found physio and orthotics very effective in treating my knee pain.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:14 AM on June 24, 2014

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