I Have Tendinitis In My knee. Are My Running Days Over? What Cardio Can
November 21, 2017 8:12 AM   Subscribe

I ran for years. At one point my knee starting really hurting. I went to the doc and they told me that I had tendinitis. I would take a month off. The pain would stop. I'd run again and it would come back. Ibuprofen would help, but the pain would come back whenever I ran. I tried again recently, after years, same result. Is there anything that I can do to still go running outside? If not, what other forms of cardio can I do? Other info inside.

I ran for years. At one point my knee starting really hurting. I went to the doc and they told me that I had tendinitis. I would take a month off. The pain would stop. I'd run again and it would come back. Ibuprofen would help, but the pain would come back whenever I ran again. I tried again recently, after years, same result. Is there anything that I can do to still go running outside? Any leg braces or anything? If not, what other forms of cardio can I do? I work out at the gym, but I much prefer the scenery outside. The bikes at the gym are boring and I don't feel like I get as good of a cardio workout. Treadmills are a bit awkward for me and still may be too high impact. I don't have access to a pool in the winter. The elliptical machines are awkward. Perhaps I'd get used to. I enjoy lifting weights, but want to do cardio too.

To summarize: Can someone with tendinitis still run outside? What is the best form of cardio at the gym? I really don't want to get pain from the tendinitis again and have to not do squats for a month either.

Thank you
posted by kbbbo to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
the pain would come back whenever I ran again

How do you start back up running again ?

When I've had Achilles tendinitis, once it stopped hurting, I'd take another month off. Then start up walking. Walking like 1/4 mile - that is it - twice a week. After 3-4 weeks, maybe move up to 1/2 mile. No more. It would be ~5 months before I was jogging a mile.

It's slow, it's tedious, I was not getting much of a workout at all.

But guess what ? No injuries (fingers crossed). I run 5k or 3-3.5 miles twice a week, and no more. Half-marathon days are over. It's enough for a workout and fight the middle age pudge, and I've learned to live with it.
posted by k5.user at 8:21 AM on November 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

I belong to a gym that offers classes that combine strength training and cardio. Of course most of the cardio involve legs (jumping jacks, jump rope, box runs, etc) so not sure how that would work for you. How about a rowing, either on a machine or in a boat?
posted by tman99 at 8:22 AM on November 21, 2017

If you can see a physical therapist, particularly one who works with runners, they will probably be able to help you more than we can here. There are a number of issues that can affect the knee that could fall under the umbrella term "tendonitis." Runner's knee, Jumper's knee, instability in the joint, issues with the meniscus, and just general swelling in the joint can all present with symptoms that sound like yours. My advice is going to be general, because I do not know exactly what is wrong with your knee, but it is always good to build strength and stability in the joint.

1. Compression. A neoprene sleeve over the knee, or a velcro brace that wraps around. The ones with a hole to align the kneecap will not hurt, and will potentially help if the problem is runner's knee.

2. Ease into exercise slowly, and ice after anything that puts strain on the knee.

3. Do squats with an elastic band around your legs just above the knee, and throughout the squat, push your legs outwards against the elastic.

4. Gently stretch both your hamstrings and quads. Never only one or the other!
posted by Nothing at 8:32 AM on November 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

You don't have to live with recurring tendinitis that requires you to take more and more time off from activity. A physical therapist who specializes in sports medicine will give you very specific stretches to do that counteract the repetitive motion injury and recommend strengthening exercises for the surrounding muscles.
posted by headnsouth at 8:34 AM on November 21, 2017 [10 favorites]

Bikes at the gym can be boring, but if you do some interval training (hard as you can go for a minute or two, then a short 30 second break and then back to the high intensity interval), you'll be working hard in no time. Or give you self a hill and endurance challenge.

I've also done some tabata style kettlebell workouts that get my heart rate up pretty well.
posted by brookeb at 8:46 AM on November 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Concur 100% with getting a second opinion on the knee from a sports-medicine doctor or physical therapist, there are lots of fixable things that can cause knee pain including running form, muscle imbalances, tight quads, IT bands, etc. Also, go to a running store and get your stride/shoes checked. I have pain in one knee which is 100% fixed by running in stability shoes instead of neutral shoes, and it's dramatic enough that I can tell if I have a problem within a mile.
posted by lemonade at 8:53 AM on November 21, 2017 [7 favorites]

I recommend ramping exercise back up slowly (like jog slowly for a mile and then stop), and wearing compression leggings to stabilize your entire leg.

other questions:
how is your running gait? do you land on the ball of your feet as you run? maybe you can adjust it?
how are your running shoes? maybe they're old? maybe get a pair with more cushion? alternatively you could slow way down and try "barefoot" shoes? this also can help improve your gait.
do you run on hard concrete? can you switch to running on grass or sand or dirt trails?
how's the rest of your body? are your quads over-developed and do you have weak hamstrings? do you lift weights to strengthen other parts of your body? a muscle imbalance could cause knee pain.
how's your health and diet? do you get enough calcium and protein? could you take supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin to improve your bones and joints?
posted by ball00000ns at 9:39 AM on November 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

The time I had tendinitis in my foot, I went to a sports-centric orthopedist and they gave me a course of steroids, which wasn’t fun but cleared it up.

I get all sorts of random pain when running on treadmills but keeping it at .5 or 1% incline instead of flat fixes that. I’m not sure where I found that tip but it was a lifesaver.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 9:50 AM on November 21, 2017

A rowing machine is also a good option for cardio if your gym has that.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 9:51 AM on November 21, 2017

Are bikes are out of the picture? Once you've got a position dialed-in, they do amazing things to strengthen knees. Muscle groups on either side of it get strengthened quite a bit, which helps takes stress of the joint. The key things to remember about cycling are 1) you don't need to drop thousands to do it, or use special clothes, and 2) if your knee(s) hurts cycling, you need to read up on adjusting the position for they absolutely should not hurt while riding.

I absolutely wrecked my left knee around 13, and was plagued with recurring aching for the next decade plus. Six months after taking up cycling as a commute in my mid-20s—and this only a few miles a day back then—the pain vanished and has never returned in the 25 years since, even during long periods of inactivity. The only real drawback to cycling versus running is that biking doesn't do much of anything for bone strength since you're not putting bones under stress like running does. The cardio's great though. I've had my resting heart rate sitting under 50 at times, and that's only from cycling.

As a bonus if the cycling does help your knee, you could likely ease running back into the mix and enjoy both. If the knee pain returns, you can then just shrug and hop back on the bike.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 10:40 AM on November 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I had a different knee problem -- a torn meniscus, which had to be trimmed arthroscopically -- but perhaps my experience is relevant your situation anyway. I was able to run a bit for several years, but eventually it hurt too much, so I stopped. A few years later, I began taking lessons in the Alexander Technique, a type of body learning practiced by many performing artists (it's taught at Julliard and at the Royal Shakespeare Company, for instance.) A running coach named Malcolm Balk, who is also an Alexander teacher, came to town for a weekend workshop, and I learned a whole new way to run. It took the strain off my knees and allowed me to run with a new ease. The damaged knee is no longer a problem.

It might be worth a try for you. Here's a link to the American Society for the Alexander Technique that gives more information:

Aerobic exercise makes a big difference in the quality of my life, both mental and physical. I wish you the best of luck in working things out, whether with running or some new activity.
posted by saywhat at 12:53 PM on November 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Another vote for have your running shoes checked out. I was plagued with running injuries for years. Finding the right pair of shoes has fixed that. Now, even if I'm wearing the wrong pair of shoes for only a few miles the knee pain comes back. Only to be fixed once I change back into the good shoes.
posted by whistle pig at 12:58 PM on November 21, 2017

1) Go talk to a sports injury physio.

2) Tendon injuries take *ages* to heal even if you do it right. Think 3x as long as muscular injuries at least. A month off may not be enough: you have to re-introduce exercise really, *really* gradually or you just aggravate the existing injury and put yourself further back.

(My achilles tendonitis took maybe 6 months to completely heal? It’s a right pain.)

If your jonesing for cardio in the meantime, rowing machines are where it’s at.
posted by pharm at 1:04 PM on November 21, 2017

Have you done anything to deal with the tendonitis other than ibuprofen and rest? I would say that you are misaligned and your movement patterns are causing your tendonitis. You can correct your movement patterns/gait. As mentioned by other commenters, you can see a physical therapist for help with this. Some people find that running barefoot/with minimalist shoes can help you find a better gait. You need to ramp up very slowly with barefoot/minimalist running.

Also check out Do It Yourself Joint Pain Relief. The idea behind it is that joint pain is generally due to muscle tightness pulling you out of alignment. The person who runs the website shows you how to release the tightness and where to find the often non-intuitive muscles that are pulling each specific joint out of whack.
posted by GregorWill at 5:13 PM on November 21, 2017

« Older Storing flour cut with butter   |   Smart meters- yes or no? [UK] Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.