What's going on with the outside of my knee?
January 21, 2008 1:29 PM   Subscribe

I have this recurring, temporary knee issue which happens and I'd like to know what it is and how to avoid it.

I have had no knee injuries in the past. This pain first happened about 5 years ago when I walked around NYC all day (at least 10 miles) with friends. It happened a second time a couple years later when I climbed a local mountain, and it happened a third time 2 days ago when I walked around NYC all day again.

Basically, sometime in the latter part of the day a pain began on the outside of the left knee. It sort of felt like it was along the side of the ball of the femur, but I can't be sure. A couple hours later, by the time the day was over, I was really favoring the leg because bending it brought on a terrible burning pain in that spot. The next morning morning it was about 50% better, and today the knee is back to normal. I'm walking on it normally and feeling no pain whatsoever.

I exercise regularly and I'm in pretty decent shape. I like to be active and plan to go on more day trips with friends, but I don't want the last couple hours to be agony. What's up with the knee and how can I prevent it? Many thanks.
posted by ktoad to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
From what I've been told by various therapists, the pain you describe is very common if one does a lot of hard-surface walking. Especially in the wrong shoes. Certainly, spending all day walking NYC fits that bill.
It's an aggravation of the tendons. Having something to do with the shoes one wears acting against your natural gait (pronation, suppination, etc.)
posted by Thorzdad at 1:41 PM on January 21, 2008

That sounds possible. It bugs me though, because I purposely wore my most comfortable, supportive sneakers (Adidas TR series).

Complicating matters: I have flat feet.
posted by ktoad at 1:46 PM on January 21, 2008

Hmm, I had a similar injury some years back. Is it worse (much worse) when you are bending down (or walking down slope)? If so, the way the Doc explained it to me is that its a common injury for folks who are a bit out of shape. It has to with uneven muscle development (or atrophy) around your patella (kneecap). The muscles pull more one way than the other and I guess it rubs on your bones at the point of articulation. In any case, its a very simple remedy. Work on your muscles by doing leg lifts. Hold your leg out straight while standing up (support yourself with a chair/friends shoulder or something) and lift it up to waist level. Keep your foot at a right angle to your leg. Do as many repetitions as you are comfortable with. Keep it up and the muscles will "even out" so to speak. Like all exercises, will not happen overnight. Worked wonders for me. Two weeks after the injury, I did another long hike and my knee was just fine.

Of course, exercises like squats and stuff will help too, as does regular exercise in general. If you feel pain while you are exercising, just take it easy until it seems to heal up, and go slow. You could also try drugs like naproxen sodium (Aleve) to take the edge off while you "work out". IANAD -just reiterating what he told me.

Good luck.
posted by elendil71 at 1:56 PM on January 21, 2008

Complicating matters: I have flat feet.
Yeah...that does complicate things.
Were you fitted for those Adidas? Or did you just get a pair at the mall? I've had many pairs of shoes over the years that were insanely comfortable on my feet, but engendered terrible pain elsewhere, especially in my hip or lower back.

Have you ever been to an ortho doc? Or, at the very least, been specially fitted for shows? You don't mention your age. That can be a complicating factor, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:00 PM on January 21, 2008

You probably have or are developing IT Band Syndrome. It's common in cyclists, but happens in runners/walkers as well. I have it, and it sucks. I ain't no doctor, but what it is, basically, is the iliotibial band stretching and moving out of the "groove" it normally sits in, and causing pain as it stretches in ways it shouldn't. As you noticed, once you stop whatever effort you're doing, it does go away, but it won't go away 100% without some work.

If you want to get rid of the pain, build up your leg muscles, but also build up your core; basically, you don't want to overtax any one region of the body (don't just work your legs, in other words). Also, it's VERY IMPORTANT to do a lot of stretching, regularly, before and after you exercise. This is a good place to start learning some basic stretches. Google "IT Band Stretches" and you'll find more.

The most important thing is to find some stretches that work, and do them RELIGIOUSLY. It will take some time for your knee to build back up, but after a few weeks of regular stretching and exercise, it'll be more or less back to normal. But don't stop doing the stretches once it does get back to normal, or you'll be right back in pain again.
posted by pdb at 2:03 PM on January 21, 2008

Sounds a bit like like it might be runners knee.

Used to get if from running (duh), really long walks and climbing/walking up mountains. I think it's basically just a tendon chafing a bit against your kneecap. The irritation/pain goes away after after a few days and it's really not that bad apart fro the pain. I got rid of it with help of some funky stretching exercises I won't go into right now and most importantly changing my running form.
posted by uandt at 2:09 PM on January 21, 2008

I think IT band also.
posted by flummox at 2:59 PM on January 21, 2008

Not a doctor, but sadly seen lots of 'em due to myriad leg, knee, foot, and hip problems.
From what you describe, this problem may stem from your flat feet. See an orthopedist (NOT a podiatrist- happy to go into detail on why if you're interested) and get a sense of what's wrong and what's aggravating it. Two steps that will very likely help address and prevent pain are orthotic inserts to correct your flat feet and regular strengthening exercises for your legs and knees. Your doctor can give you a prescription for orthotics and for a session with a physical therapist to come up with a good, reasonable routine.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 3:20 PM on January 21, 2008

Thanks for all of the info/advice thus far.

Thorzdad--> I was fitted by the shoe store employee, if that's what you mean. Also, I'm 33.

pdb--> Those stretches look great, I'll definitely start doing them regularly.

foxy_hedgehog--> Sure, I'd be interested to know about orthopedist vs. podiatrist.
posted by ktoad at 3:39 PM on January 21, 2008

It's probably TMS.
posted by Jay Reimenschneider at 3:58 PM on January 21, 2008

I have had right knee pain that seemed to be due to excessive supination - check out this excellent paulsc answer on shoes for details.
posted by Chuckles at 10:11 PM on January 21, 2008

Umm...Jay...TMS is "psychosomatic". Are you accusing my brain of making this all up? Because I'm aware of the brain's powers to deceive itself and this pain ain't no phantom.
posted by ktoad at 10:14 AM on January 22, 2008

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