Knee pain is a common complaint for anyone who participates in a running program or attempts to run without being prepared. Running in the cold weather can add to knee pain or make it more difficult to run at your normal pace. Although you should never replace necessary medical care with home treatment, most knee pain can be prevented or treated without a trip to the doctor’s office.
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If you attempt to run farther or harder than you have in the past without gradually increasing your running sessions, you can overwork the tendons and muscles in your legs and knees. This pain usually occurs in the iliotibial band that runs down the side of your leg and into your knee bones. Lacking strength in your thigh muscles and using unsupportive shoes can also cause knee pain. Without these two components, unnecessary stress can build on your knees and cause your cartilage to wear out. During colder temperatures, your heart rate has a slower response rate, which can cause the muscles and tissues around your knee to be more brittle and less lubricated. If you then attempt to run at your normal pace or harder, you can experience sore and achy knees.
The most basic form of treatment for sore knees is the RICE method. This involves rest, ice, compression and elevation. Allow 24 to 48 hours of rest before you attempt to run again. During this time you can elevate your knees and use ice packs to alleviate pain. Compression bandages can help to reduce any swelling. After 48 to 72 hours you can switch from ice packs to heat packs or hot baths to soothe knee pain.
Use shoes that are designed specifically for running. Your feet should be comfortable and stabilized within the shoe and you should not feel your feet moving around as you walk or run. Warmup your legs with exercises like jumping jacks, high knees or walking before you run in any temperature. Strength exercises, like squats, the leg press, lunges and the leg curl, can help to improve the strength in your thighs, to alleviate pressure on your knees during a run. Dress for the temperature in which you are going to run, instead of dressing for how warm you may feel after running. Cover your limbs with comfortable clothing that allows movement.
Even though knee pain is a common problem for runners, there are times when it is a serious medical problem that should be treated by a doctor. If the RICE method does not alleviate pain, swelling or redness, see a doctor. If you notice a worsening of symptoms, this could also be an indication of a serious injury. Possible causes could be a muscle tear or a ligament injury.