The Spirit Is Willing, but the Knees Are Weak


Glancing around the office at the faces of my co-bloggers, I see that I have a good 10 years of age or more on all of them.  It falls to me to be the in-house expert on Middle Age.  Knowing our audience as I do, I feel this is an important role.

So hello, you fellow geezers, you ‘Over 45’ types!  There is much for us to talk about.

Today, let’s talk exercise.

I’m a runner, and have been since high school.  I’m not competitive, am not training for a 10K or marathon or anything.  And I slack off from time to time, to be truthful — like every winter, when I struggle with cold temperatures and shorter daylight hours.  If I can maintain a routine of a 30-minute run, three or four times a week, I’m satisfied.

Periodically, I have a frustrating spell of knee pain: not crippling, but bothersome.  The day after I run, I might find it painful to navigate stairs or stand up from my seat.  Based on experience, I’m confident I don’t have a traumatic injury like a torn ligament, just “wear and tear.”

Allow me to share a few suggestions for dealing with knee pain, from my experience and some casual self-guided research.  I’m not a doctor or nurse, and if you suspect an acute injury or have complicating health issues, please seek medical advice.  Short of that, I offer this checklist in the spirit of peer support, and I would welcome a two-way discussion about minor aches and pains from running.

Stretch.  Some experts have cast doubt on the value of static stretching for most runners.  However, if you experience pain on the outside of the knee, that may be a sign of iliotibial band syndrome, and there are specific stretches that may relieve this condition.

Strengthen.  We lose muscle mass as we age, so our knees absorb more of the pounding when we run.  Weight training or other strengthening exercises for the quadriceps and calves can benefit the knees.

Vary the surface you run on.  For many of us, sidewalks and paved trails are most convenient, but seek out forest trails or grassy areas from time to time.  A softer surface decreases the jolt on your knees and other joints.

Rest.  Like keeping the Sabbath holy, this is advice I struggle to uphold.  But I am trying to do a better job of listening to my body and persuading it, not willing it into submission.  Also, resting doesn’t mean becoming a couch potato.  Pursue a course of “active rest,” switching to walking or another activity that doesn’t cause pain.

Try a neoprene sleeve or patellar band.

Ice.  20 minutes per knee, soon after running, makes a great difference, I find.  A package of frozen vegetables works very well.

Again, I’d welcome questions or comments from anyone dealing with chronic knee soreness.

John James

Photo by Flickr user Jeff Rasansky (Creative Commons)

This entry was posted in Exercise, Physical Health, Tips & Tools and tagged , by John James. Bookmark the permalink.

About John James

John is a Research Analyst for the Clergy Health Initiative. He has held research and administrative positions at Duke Medical Center as well as the Divinity School. John lives in Raleigh, the only male human in a houseful of women who look after him very well. He enjoys reading, writing, singing in his church choir, sports, the outdoors, his dogs, and listening to music.

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