Knee pain with brace
knee pain with brace

It is ok and completely safe to run and do different types of exercise with runner’s knee. 

The main thing to look out for is how your symptoms respond to the type of activity that you are attempting to perform. 

If you have been consistently training you may need to reduce your frequency of training and/or intensity as symptoms are at their highest. 

What type of exercise should I avoid?

The only activity you should avoid is the activity that makes your symptoms worse. You can assess this by paying attention to how your knee feels during, one hour after, and 24 hours after the activity. 

Read this article for 7 different ideas of how to modify your exercise routine.

What type of exercise is okay to perform?

As discussed above, any exercise is okay as long as it doesn’t significantly increase symptoms 24 hours of activity.

 

For example, if your pain levels are between a 0 and a 4, this is generally accepted as tolerable or manageable levels of discomfort. 

If you notice that after activity from the previous day or from earlier in the day, that you are experiencing pain levels that are 6 or above, this means that you need to reduce the intensity or volume of your activity for the time being. 

A solid rehab program is one that helps you increase your activity levels and intensity over time without further irritating symptoms past a tolerable level. 

Are there any specific exercises that can help runners’ knee improve?

All types of exercises are fine, however I will go through a few different movements that I take my athletes through if they are experiencing runner’s knee. 

Modified running volume

First and foremost I want to look at how much running they are currently doing before I change anything else. This is the lowest hanging fruit and I look at this before I look at their form. Usually, people have been running in the same way for years and are just now having symptoms, telling me that it’s usually not form-related. 

Strength Training

woman deadlifting
Sumo deadlift

The next thing I will incorporate is strength training. Specifically, lunges, squats, step-ups, and deadlift variations. I use these movements as building up strength and endurance through the musculature is helpful, particularly when a runner cannot run or their volume is significantly reduced. 

This allows the athlete to keep up their general conditioning so that when they return back to their normal running volume their body is not in complete shock. 

Cycling

stationary bike
Peleton – stationary bike

A great form of cross-training for runners is cycling. You can easily implement this into your training when you are rehabbing and this will assist with keeping your aerobic capacity near where it was when you were running, allowing you to get back to training at a similar pace once your injury is recovered. 

Does running strengthen the knees?

Running can certainly increase the mitochondrial density of the leg musculature in addition to provide increased bone density to the knee joint itself. 

Recreational runners experienced a much lower rate of symptomatic osteoarthritis vs. those who were marathon runners and among those who do not run at all. 

So, with the above data in mind, running does seem to be protective of the knee joints when done in moderation. 

Is walking good for runners’ knee?

Walking can be excellent for runner’s knee, assuming that it does not produce severe symptoms. If at any time you recognize that your increased walking volume is significantly increasing symptoms this is when you should consider a reduced volume of walking or choosing a different type of activity. 

How long should I rest the runner’s knee?

I rarely recommend complete rest except in the instance where the pain is so severe that all activity makes symptoms worse. 

In most cases there is some form of activity that one can do that does not make symptoms worse 24 hours later. 

In terms of how long it can take to recover from runner’s knee, the answer is, “it depends.” 

Everyone is a bit different and it’s impossible to say exactly how long it should take to completely recover. Generally,

weeks to months is an appropriate estimation. 

Can you do lunges with runner’s knee?

Yes, you can do lunges with runner’s knee as long as it does not cause severely irritated symptoms the next day. 

Can squats cause runners’ knee?

Runner’s knee is a diagnosis that involved generalized knee pain, usually on the anterior surface of the knee, or posterior to the kneecap (patella).

Since runner’s knee has the name “runner,” in it, most people assume that only running can cause it. This condition has the name as it’s very common in runners, but, it can also present in individuals who squat and lunge, too. 

Squatting and lunging are some of the safest exercises people can do and the benefits far outweigh any associated risks. While it is possible to experience knee pain while lunging and squatting, this should not discourage you from participating in resistance training. If progressed properly the chances of this becoming a problem are very low.

It is of my opinion that everyone should be lunging and squatting. That’s why I have 3 of my clients right now, who are ages 70+, lunging and squatting. 

It’s an essential functional activity that we need to be able to do throughout our lives!

Summary

  • Yes, you can exercise with runner’s knee
  • Modify your exercise routine with these tips to help improve your symptoms while staying active
  • Resting for an extended period of time over weeks and months is not a good long-term solution.
  • The only exercise that you should avoid are those that significantly worsen your symptoms. 
  • Squatting and lunging are very safe for your knees.
  • Running recreationally is actually protective of your knees and reduces the risk of symptomatic osteoarthritis.