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Exercise and Fitness

Treadmill Knee Injuries

02/03/2011

Question:

I do a lot of running on my treadmill, I run four to five mile a day and I do feel pain in my knees. Can it be from the running on the treadmill? If so what should I do for the pain that I feel? Thanks.

Answer:

Knee pain can easily occur after running on a treadmill. This is largely due to the overuse of your knee joint, and the fact that one thing that differentiates treadmill running from outdoor running is that the surface never varies on the treadmill. Because the surface of the terrain varies outdoors when you run, your knee (and foot joints) are constantly adapting to the various terrain.

The continual adjustments of your foot and other joints (for example, your knee) results in the joints varying their movement ever so slightly over the time you are running. On a treadmill the surface never varies so it is a more of a consistent repetitive motion your knee joint has to deal with. Over time, the consistent non-varying motion of the knee joint while treadmill running can aggravate the joint and the soft tissue (tendons and ligaments) that surround the joint.

Besides the actual sensation of pain, it is not uncommon for knee pain discomfort to be accompanied by other symptoms. For example, you may suffer stiffness and slight swelling as well as redness or weakness around the knee. You also may notice a clicking or popping sound emanating from the knee. If you were to experience a marked swelling or are unable to bear weight on the knee, you should seek advice from your physician. The inability to straighten or flex the knee and any deformity to the joint also calls for medical intervention.

Minor pain often responds favorably to self-care methods. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen, can relieve inflammation and ease discomfort. You should also rest and elevate the joint as well as apply ice and compression to the affected knee. Sleeping with a pillow underneath the knee may be of some benefit as well.

Warming up prior to stepping onto the treadmill can help. Walk slowly for a few minutes first, and then engage in some easy stretching to help loosen up your joints. Finally, I recommend resistance training for our legs, this not only strengthen the muscles around the knee joint but also increase the strength and integrity of the tendons and ligaments.

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Response by:

Steven T Devor, PhD, FACSM Steven T Devor, PhD, FACSM
Associate Professor of Sport & Exercise Sciences and Physiology & Cell Biology
School of PAES
The Ohio State University