Pain above my right knee?
August 13, 2008 12:02 AM   Subscribe

I started running 2 - 3 weeks ago and I run around 3 miles every second day. So for the past week, I've had this sort of "pain" or somekind of uncomfortable feeling above my knee. The "pain" is not in the knee itself, but maybe in muscle above it? When I'm laying in bed or sitting it feels the same way. It doesn't hurt, but its just a little bit uncomfortable. Its kinda like a feeling of someone is squeezing a muscle just above my knee. Should I be worried and go to a doctor or is this normal, when you havnt done any exercise for 8 years and just started? I'm 22 and male btw.
posted by madcow20 to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Normal, but it's a serious indicator. Back off, run/walk for a while, don't do the 3 full miles. Running often just hurts, but in very specific ways. If you keep doing this, you're going to injure yourself before you even really get started (and it may not even be this - this is just a sign that you're starting too fast).
posted by devilsbrigade at 12:12 AM on August 13, 2008

While the location you describe is a little off, the sensation you describe fits the bill: Google "sciatic nerve."

posted by sourwookie at 12:13 AM on August 13, 2008

Best answer: Also, make sure you're stretching before & after, but AFTER you warm up lightly. Stretching cold can tweak muscles & joints out like this too. Also, re the 'just hurts' line, it's fine for muscles to feel tight towards the end of or after your runs, and its normal to have a bit of joint or muscle stuff weirdness in the first few minutes of your run as you warm up, but the majority of your run should feel comfortable. Several books I've read have had claims along the lines of "you should feel able to repeat your run when after you finish it," which I think is probably a good rule if you're not being coached.
posted by devilsbrigade at 12:17 AM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think you may be starting too quick. It's hard to tell; you haven't really told us what your level of fitness was before you started. But I've been in the same position several times. I'd get the urge to start running and immediately jump into a workout routine without any thought as to duration or frequency. And I'd end up with an injury every single time. Eight months ago I finally cracked it: You've got to go slow. Way slower than you think you need to. Don't get caught thinking that running = sprinting, and that if you take walk breaks you're "cheating." I got some books by Jeff Galloway, and he's all about keeping yourself injury-free. (He's got some info on knee injuries here, although your description doesn't seem to fit any of the classics very well.)

Also - what sort of shoes are you wearing? Do you maybe need orthotics? I finally got fed up with the idiot teenagers at Athlete's Foot and went to a serious runner's shop. They looked at the wear patterns on my existing shoes and watched me walk/run around the shop. A good pair of shoes might make all the difference.

But anyway, devilsbrigade has good advice about the difference between being stiff/sore and being hurt. I'll just add that if it doesn't improve in the next few weeks, you might want to see a physiotherapist. I had random lower back pain for MONTHS (never bad enough to see a doctor) and I stupidly didn't do anything about it. When I finally went to a physio, he took one look at me and diagnosed a misaligned pelvis. A few sessions with him (and a bunch of core strengthening exercises) and the pain is gone. Now I feel stupid for not getting it looked at sooner.
posted by web-goddess at 12:59 AM on August 13, 2008

Best answer: Everyone's advice is great so far, I'm just chiming in to stress that this is a little problem that could get bigger if ignored. If you can get access to any kind of trainer / physiotherapist i highly recommend it, my trainer worked out after a few sessions that my gait was putting strain on a muscle in my left calf, so we've been working to strengthen and stretch that area to keep me from having any major injuries. In the meantime, i'm off the treadmill and onto the rowing machine or cross trainer to avoid causing any more trouble.

Often it's just a case where you need to stretch and/or strengthen a particular muscle group to make sure your run stays injury-free, but it's best to speak to a professional about it.

(web goddess's advice about shoes is great as well - a professional can fit your shoe to your walking/running style which helps a lot)
posted by ukdanae at 3:01 AM on August 13, 2008

Best answer: I agree with everyone so far, but I'd like to add check your shoes. Be sure that you are fitted from a running professional for shoes that accommodate your pronation, be it under pronation or over pronation or normal. Shoes make a big difference.

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. Please consider offsetting your running with biking or swimming, relatively low-impact sports that strengthen but don't stress your muscles.

Also, just go slower. That should help a lot. Even though you might feel like you're plodding along, you are still working out and your body can get used to this new stress better.

Good luck and take care.
posted by cachondeo45 at 4:20 AM on August 13, 2008

The previous comments are all quite good, but I do have two suggestions.

First, the importance of stretching cannot be overemphasized for almost any form of exercise. Improperly stretching beforehand can lead to injuries, and properly stretching afterwards can reduce soreness the next day.

Second, consider taking up cycling. It tends to be a lot easier on the joints, feet, tendons, etc. than running does. You aren't pounding away dozens of times a minute. Unlike running, the majority of the danger inherent in cycling is from running into things, and this can be minimized and mitigated pretty easily.

A properly-fitted and equipped bike (this is really important, but you don't have to spend thousands of dollars to get this) with a good seat, proper safety gear (helmet, etc.), and a safe riding environment (away from traffic) can make cycling a lot easier on the body than other forms of exercise.
posted by valkyryn at 7:57 AM on August 13, 2008

The sciatic nerve is almost bulletproof. Only a severe trauma - like a bad fall or a car accident can make you have pain.

Often it's just a case where you need to stretch and/or strengthen a particular muscle group to make sure your run stays injury-free

Stretching is a waste of time. Cavemen didn't stretch, people who live in indigenous regions don't stretch- and they run faster and longer than you or me- on bare feet.

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.

This is voodoo. And it's another way a person can be lulled into the false belief that their pain is really coming from the knee - and not from TMS.

Everyone has tinges of pain when they run. How you think about the pain will either make it worse or make it disappear.

The belief that the pain is actually caused by something "going wrong" in your knee will fuck you up for life. Don't go down that road.

You can go to my archives to read about what really makes your pain worse and/or google "TMS Sarno".
posted by Zambrano at 10:07 AM on August 13, 2008

I use to do a lot of running. I would get the same pain right above the knee. I would also get shin splints really bad as well. How I fixed/stopped the problem was:

1 - stretch: Don't over do it but just to the point where you feel the muscle stretching. Hold it for about 40 to 60 seconds. Make sure you stretch out major muscle groups in the leg.

2 - Wrap your ankles/arches: I have flat feet. If I run without any ankle/arch support my legs hurt for days. I would learn how to give your ankles more support.

3 - Buy good running shoes: If you are seriously considering running as much as you do, I would invest is a good pair of running shoes. Make sure you are comfortable in them. The extra padding can help.

4 - Find a track to run on: Roads and sidewalks are very hard running surfaces. Go to your local highschool and use their track or find a park that has a running trail.

5 - Cool off: After your workout, don't just fall on the ground exhausted, keep moving until your heart rate and breathing goes back to normal.

6 - Lastly if something hurts, don't push it: If you notice your legs are very sore or a muscle is hurting you, take the day off. If you push yourself too hard you could take a mildly sore muscle and maybe pull/tear it!

Also I switched to cycling because it is way easier on my joints and you can get just as good of a workout. Just something you might want to consider.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 10:41 AM on August 13, 2008

I had a very similar pain when I was doing the couch to 5k training program, after a bit of googling around I decided it was likely the vastus intermedius muscle.

My initial assumption was that it was just growing, I'm was an avid cyclist, but never a runner and I knew they really do use different muscle groups. So for a few training sessions I left it like that, went a bit slower thinking it would work itself out.

But after another week or so, it was obviously not getting better, that muscle would hurt if I crossed them and so I took about a month off to totally let it repair itself, then started a couple of weeks back in the training schedule and there was no pain.

Respect the pain, it's your bodys way of telling to take it easy.
posted by Static Vagabond at 11:18 AM on August 13, 2008

Stretching is a waste of time. Cavemen didn't stretch, people who live in indigenous regions don't stretch- and they run faster and longer than you or me- on bare feet.

I really hope I just missed massive sarcasm here. But in case I didn't, there are several things at work here: one, they grew up running, so have the skill and the training to not injure themselves, two, they were running on dirt, not concrete, and three, I'm sure plenty of them did seriously injure themselves, but I'm also sure those people just stopped running (i.e., we see them in the aggregate, when we're concerned only with our individual circumstance). Unless you're being actively coached, just stretch - it'll make you feel better and it'll prevent injuries for us mortals.

And to counter TMS (which isn't well-accepted, for good reason IMO), just wishing it would go away doesn't make it just go away. Running injuries usually persist at a low level for a long time, have a really short build-up period, and then suddenly debilitate you. There are plenty of minor discomforts in running, and many of them don't matter, but what you're describing sounds to me like one of the ones that I'd be very wary of.
posted by devilsbrigade at 12:27 PM on August 13, 2008

Sounds like Plica Syndrome, which I have.

Basically there's tissue in the knee that gets inflamed. Mine gets irritated when I exercise without properly stretching. Nothing serious.
posted by unceman at 10:50 AM on August 14, 2008

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