Let Me Run Free Again?
August 2, 2008 11:08 AM   Subscribe

I can walk, I can bike, I can't run more than a mile without my knee locking up.

My first thought was IT Band, but that seems to mean stinging pain and just pain. What I'm getting is, a mile or two in, my knee will start to get stiff, and eventually I'll have to stop. There some attendant pain, but not of the stinging variety - only kind of a sharp pain if I extend my knee too much.

I can run, and I've run about 6 seasons of cross-country and track in the past, with occasional shin splints but few joint-related quandries. Since the treatment for IT band is rest, I've given it lots of rest: I've stopped running for 1.5 - 2 months at a time, and the first time I come back, doing a super-short run of 1.5 - 2 miles, this'll happen and my knee will be awful and painful the next day.

And I'm 21, so if it's arthritis, that sucks.

I know YANMD, etc - and I'm going to see a doctor soon, but I'd like a general idea of what this could be, because I dearly miss running and doctors are not 100% accurate.
posted by tmcw to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Does your knee swell? I used to get the following from running:
posted by lunchbox at 11:35 AM on August 2, 2008

stop running on concrete
posted by Faux Real at 11:52 AM on August 2, 2008

Have you been properly fitted for a good pair of running shoes by a specialist? Your Dr will be able to help you out better, but my money would be on having the wrong pair of shoes for your feet/running style
posted by xotis at 12:38 PM on August 2, 2008

good suggestion from xotis. let me add: see a sports podiatrist. You may need orthotics.
posted by Postroad at 12:49 PM on August 2, 2008

I will second the new shoes suggestion. That might make a big difference. Also, rest is not the only solution to IT Band problems. If IT Band is the issue, then there are also strengthening exercises to pull that band straighter. Often, stronger quads will help align the "tracks" of the IT Band and will generally support it better. Something that really works for me is to lie flat on the ground. Bend one knee up with that foot flat on the ground. Your other leg should be straight and flat. Now lift your straight leg slowly up and slowly down. Do fifteen lifts. Now do the same thing on the other leg. Repeat. Do this every day for about 10 minutes. It has made a HUGE difference for me and I went from struggling through two miles to marathons. I do this stretch every other day now. Continue to bike also, and if you can swim, I suggest doing laps of freestyle. That will also help stretch and strengthen these muscles and tendons. After any workout, ice your knee. That also helps reduce swelling and inflammation. Also, consider an anti-inflammatory such as tylonol (do NOT take aspirin or naproxin sodium aka alleve). Tylonol does not mask pain; it simply reduces swelling. If you still hurt, you will feel it.

Good luck and take care.
posted by cachondeo45 at 1:19 PM on August 2, 2008

Nthing the shoes suggestion, unless you're already running in new shoes that have been professionally chosen for you at a running store. For me, achy joints mean that my shoes are wearing out.
posted by liet at 2:37 PM on August 2, 2008

Again on shoes. In Boston there is a store called Marathon Sports, where they watch you walk and jog, analyze your gait, and recommend shoes that provide proper support. I had knee problems until getting fitted for new shoes there; afterwards the problems reduced dramatically.
posted by cubby at 3:02 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Are you stretching before you run - including stretches that specifically target the IT band? I used to run for pleasure, around 30-40 miles a week, and blew out both my knees in part by half-assing or skipping the stretching, overtraining, and (ugh, stupid!) - choosing stair climbing and stationary biking on hill programs as my x-training activites.

IT band problems usually start as sore/stiff knees, usually a mile or two into a run. Stretching helps, good shoes help (especially if you're a pronated runner), and easing back into running slow distances will help - don't go out for a 2 mile run after a month off!

If you cycle a lot, also be aware that proper cycling biomechanics aren't very friendly for your IT band (here's a good primer on why).

Google should help with tracking down some good stretches, and get fitted for good running shoes at a running-specific store (if you're in Canada, the Running Room is a great one). A clerk at a good running store will watch you run before pointing you at shoes, to determine if you've got anything weird in your gait, or if you over/underpronate.
posted by grippycat at 4:08 PM on August 2, 2008

You really need to talk to an orthopedist or your doctor, preferably both. Knees are so damn complex that you just can't figure out what's really going on with them through simple observation. You'll probably have to have a bunch of tests done - MRI, X-Ray, etc.

Before doing all that, though, I'd go with the "better shoes" idea, and see if using them helps the symptoms, first. It's cheaper, and less of a hassle.
posted by Citrus at 8:36 AM on August 4, 2008

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