Knees hurt after running – causes, diagnosis and treatment

Running has undeniable advantages for training the heart and strengthening the muscle corset. The feeling when knees hurt after running is familiar to every person. The cause may be physical exertion, improper technique or joint pathology. Knee pain after exercise is a serious reason for examination by a doctor to exclude injuries, destructive changes or inflammation. If the cause of the pain is a significant load, it is enough to change the training process. The appearance of a pain syndrome due to a disease requires a treatment plan, so as not to start the disease.

Causes of Pain

Soreness in the knee joint after an intense load can appear not only in untrained people, but also in athletes. In the process of running, a complex coordinated activity of muscles and lower extremities is required from a person. Cartilage (menisci) take on an increased load, changing from smooth movements while walking to springy jerks.

Menisci are part of a complex knee joint, designed to cushion the joint and stabilize it. With age or with constant physical exertion, the cartilage shock absorber becomes thin and inelastic, which leads to knees hurt after running. A change in the amount or consistency of joint fluid affects the normal functioning of the joint.

In addition to the joint, ligaments and tendons are actively involved in the process of running, damage to which can also cause pain. To get rid of soreness, it is necessary to accurately establish the nature of the origin of the unpleasant symptom.

Factors contributing to the appearance of pain in the knee joint after running:

  • Unusual load on unprepared muscles during excessive physical activity after inactivity.
  • Knee injuries: not only fresh injuries, but also chronic injuries of the spine, pelvis, meniscus have a provoking effect.
  • Weakening of joint tissues with a deficiency of minerals and vitamins that improve metabolic processes in the joint.
  • Wrong movements during running, when a person who does not have sufficient knowledge in the field of athletics discipline makes mistakes that cost him health.
  • Of great importance is the shoes in which the athlete runs. When going for a run, it is important to choose high-quality shock-absorbing sneakers.
  • Running on rough terrain, dirt tracks can be fraught with danger of falling and getting injured.
  • Excess weight serves as an additional load on the knee joints, increasing the strength of tremors during running.

How does pain appear after running

The condition when the knees hurt after running can be accompanied by symptoms that make up the overall clinical picture of the pathological process. By the additional signs and nature of the pain, the etiology of the pain syndrome can be suggested.

If the pain after exercise is moderate, the person feels it not only in the knee, but also in the muscles of the thigh and lower leg, perhaps the cause of discomfort is an increased load, which is unusual for body cells. An alarming symptom is swelling of the knee, which appears after a click while moving. In this case, the possibility of injury cannot be ruled out.

When the knee swells and turns red, the joint becomes hot to the touch, on the face are all the signs of an inflammatory pathology developing in the joint. The general condition may remain satisfactory, and in severe cases, the disease proceeds against the background of a febrile state.

In each case, the range of motion in the knee joint is sharply limited or completely disappears. Self-diagnosis and improper treatment can harm your health, so in any situation when your knees hurt after running, you should definitely contact a traumatologist for a full examination to exclude serious diseases that can lead to joint damage.

Possible pathologies

  1. Various types of traumatic injuries are a common cause of severe pain after exercise. A meniscus rupture with a violation of the integrity of the cartilaginous tissue, pain with this type of injury, stitching pain appears against a background of slight numbness in the knee. Dislocation of the patella is accompanied by dull pain. Sprain or rupture of the ligaments leads to the accumulation of fluid in the soft tissues and loss of stability of the knee joint.
  2. Gonarthrosis – degenerative processes in the knee joint. Cartilages lose elasticity, become thin and crack. Bone tissue thickens and grows in the form of small spikes. Pathology is accompanied by knee deformation.
  3. Inflammatory diseases (arthritis, synovitis, bursitis, tendonitis) appearing as a result of frequent microtraumas, concomitant infectious pathologies. This group of pathologies is always accompanied by significant edema, redness and loss of joint functionality.
  4. Deformation pathologies of the musculoskeletal system – flat feet, scoliosis. Incorrect redistribution of load during movement leads to pain in the movable joint.
  5. An autoimmune disease (rheumatism) that develops after infections caused by hemolytic streptococcus.
  6. Vascular pathologies in the knee area due to insufficient blood circulation with varicose veins, atherosclerosis. In this case, the pains are not permanent, they may appear periodically and have a vague character.


Determining the reason why the knees hurt after running is done by a medical specialist. Examination of a diseased joint and history taking will help establish a preliminary diagnosis.

For an objective examination, an X-ray examination will be required, which will indicate bone damage and displacement of the articular surfaces.

To identify injuries of cartilage and connective tissue, an MRI and ultrasound of the knee joint is performed. With the accumulation of effusion in the joint capsule, a puncture is indicated to collect exudate for cytological and bacteriological examination.


If there is pain in the knee, do not delay the visit to the doctor. Getting rid of soreness by taking analgesics will bring relief for a short time, but will not relieve the cause of pain. No need to take lightly tolerant pain, the absence of vivid symptoms does not mean that this condition can pass on its own. Ignoring the problem can contribute to the progression of the pathological process. Therefore, getting an orthopedic consultation is important for prescribing the optimal treatment.

Shishkevich Vladimir, orthopedic and traumatologistShishkevich Vladimir, orthopedic and traumatologist, project editor-in-chief ExpertNews.

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How to treat acute pain

  1. Exclude any kind of load on the sore joint. The knee can be fixed with a brace on the knee joint (knee pad). For reliable immobilization, a splint is used if complete immobilization of the joint is required. A rigid bandage equipped with hinges “holds” the knee, but leaves the possibility of free movement of the foot. In severe cases, when standard orthoses are not suitable for the patient, the doctor fixes with polymer bandages. For mild pain, a bandage made of an elastic bandage can be applied to the knee, which will help with compression if the knees hurt after running.
  2. To prevent or reduce swelling, the affected limb is placed on an elevation so that the foot is above the level of the heart.
  3. In the first two days, ice is applied to the affected area for 10 minutes. The procedure can be done up to 4 times during the day. A cold object must be wrapped in a cloth to prevent hypothermia.
  4. The doctor prescribes painkillers: analgesics in tablets (Baralgin, Analgin), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Ketorolac, Diclofenac, Ibuprofen), which will not only relieve pain, but also prevent inflammation.

For local treatment, ointments for joint pain are prescribed: on the first day and in the acute phase of inflammation without a warming effect (Dolobene, Nise gel), later, when heating is allowed, locally irritating ointments (Viprosal, Voltaren) can be used.

Chronic pain therapy

If knee pain is constantly present, the doctor will prescribe a specific treatment depending on the disease that provokes the pain symptom. To relieve the joint, constant wearing of the orthosis is recommended for the knee joint, as well as shock absorbing heels or insoles.

The orthopedic regimen for the joint is compiled based on the stage and course of the pathology. Proper dosing of the load will avoid acute attacks and deterioration. To support the joint and its partial recovery, chondroprotectors (Don, Teraflex, Honda) are prescribed, which contain glucosamine and chondroitin, which are necessary to improve the metabolism of joint tissues.

For local anesthesia, ointments with a warming effect (Apizartron, Capsicam), as well as taping of a sick joint, are suitable. A patient with chronic pain will need constant monitoring by a medical specialist to monitor the course of the pathological process.

What to do so that the knee does not hurt?

Daily jogging with a properly selected load will always stay in shape, strengthen the heart and blood vessels, improve immunity and metabolic processes. If your knees hurt after running, you may need to replace shoes, reduce the intensity or duration of the distance. So that the pain does not bother, and physical education gives joy, it is necessary to follow simple recommendations:

  • moderate exercise while running;
  • warming up and warming up the muscles of the lower extremities before jogging;
  • use preventive bandage on the knee joint;
  • the correct running technique will help prevent soreness: the knee joint will be safe if you run with support on the front of the foot, movements should be light, moderately intense, the supporting leg is slightly bent at the knee;
  • choose high-quality sports shoes with support for the arches of the foot; sneakers should be light with the same height of the sole along the entire length and fit the foot tight;
  • It is recommended to run on a flat surface with a good coating;
  • if there is unpleasant discomfort in the knee, stop the workout and consult a doctor to identify the cause of the pain.
Morozov Georgiy

Georgy Morozov, rheumatologist. For more than 20 years, he has been involved in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of joint diseases.