The science behind why it’s dangerous to run with a swollen knee
It’s never a good feeling when you hurt yourself while running. It might be a sudden twisted ankle or a spectacular wipe-out on a trail. Sometimes though, all it takes is a single misstep and you find yourself with a niggle – a small, almost unnoticeable twinge. When you sit down after your run and you notice your knee is swollen, should you run again the next day?
The knee joint is surrounded by synovial membrane. When there’s inflammation around the joint, the membrane can fill with fluid. You’ll notice some swelling, and the affected area might feel a little spongey. You may also observe some redness and pain. If you have trouble bearing weight on the joint, please seek a doctor’s advice and don’t run on it until you’re medically cleared.
Swelling can be the first sign of a larger problem. If you have a degenerative illness like rheumatoid arthritis, the swelling may indicate something more serious than an aggravated joint. If your joints are swollen and painful often, it may be best for you to stop running and see your health professional.
If your swollen knee is a singular, one off event, you should consider resting for a few days. If it’s quite badly swollen, consider applying ice (wrapped in a towel, not directly on the skin), a compression bandage, and elevating the joint to help with drainage.
If your swollen knee returns to normal after a few days of rest, you could try going out for an easy run. If you notice that the swelling returns, stop. Sometimes recurring inflammation can be an indicator of a worsening overuse injury. Inflammation of tendons, bursitis, and runner’s knee can all display swelling as a symptom, and all are made worse by running while the joint is inflamed.
Even if you have a big race scheduled, it may not be worth causing further damage to your knee. A swollen knee may hold up on the day of the race, but the internal strain may contribute to a shorter running career overall. Take it one race at a time.
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Whilst Enertor has over 18 years Orthotics experience, our blog content is provided for informational purposes only and it is not a substitute for your own doctor’s medical advice. Enertor advises anyone with an injury to seek their own medical advice – and do not make any health or medical related decisions based solely on information found on this site.
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