"Running With A Knee Cartilage Injury"

Written By: Chloe Wilson, BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Reviewed by: KPE Medical Review Board

Knee Pain Explained #AskUs - Running With A Knee Cartilage Injury

November 8, 2017

Hi, Thank you for this great site. It has been really informative. I am hoping you can confirm what I think is the problem with my knee.

I am 52 and run 3-4 times a week. I first tore cartilage on the outside of my knee when I was 12, I tore the ACL in that knee when I was 14 (both from tennis). I had surgery each time. 7 years ago I tore more cartilage as I was walking up my stairs I felt a little pinch in the back of my knee and had pain and some swelling. The pain seemed to begin near my outer joint just below my knee and travel down my calf.

Over time that pain mostly went away, though I have not been able to completely bend my knee since then. An MRI confirmed the torn cartilage. Sometimes I do feel pain at that same spot and I wonder if it’s caused by cartilage fragments. I do run a lot and I love it. It has been incredible for my knees (bucket tear on my left knee when I was 9 gymnastics). Doctors always told me not to run, but I took it up in my 30s and it has been life altering. So I won’t stop now.

I think the best I can do is keep my knees strong and rest it when I get those flare ups. Does my theory about fragments seem correct? I am not interested in surgery. I am wondering if there is something else I can be doing for my knees. Lift weights? Thanks for taking the time to read this! Beth

Knee Pain Explained #AskUs - Get answers to all things knee related

Chloe Wilson - Knee Pain Explained Team
November 9, 2017

Hi Beth. Knee pain running is a really common problem that can be caused by a number of different knee problems.

It sounds like you do a great job of being in control of your knees. Knee cartilage is notoriously bad at healing itself so the pain you get is most likely from thinning in the cartilage meaning there isn't as much shock absorption going on. If there were loose fragments you would more likely experience knee locking - where the knee gets stuck.

Strengthening your core may really help, especially working on abdominal strength and glutes. Core muscles are responsible for stability which can change the way the forces go through the body, particularly the knee. They work differently to your power muscles e.g. power muscles (such as quads, hamstrings, biceps etc) can be really strong and powerful but they will tire fairly quickly - you can't lift weights all day! Whereas stability muscles (such as trans abs, glute med etc) work at a lower level but can work all day long - they are all about endurance and stability.

You train stability muscles differently to power muscles. I would recommend finding a Pilates instructor who is also a physical therapist. Pure Pilates focuses more on power muscles whereas PT's adapt it to target core stability. Hope that helps. Chloe

Knee Pain Explained #AskUs - Running With A Knee Cartilage Injury

November 10, 2017

Hi Chloe, Thanks so much for your reply. I have read about core muscles absorbing shock, and so will work on that too. I do lots of push-ups so am making some progress there. I have just sort of made peace with chronic discomfort and some mobility restrictions. But I can still run!

Knee Pain Explained #AskUs - Get answers to all things knee related

Chloe Wilson - Knee Pain Explained Team
November 10, 2017

No problem at all Beth. Keep up the good work! Chloe

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