Sudden excrutiating knee pain while out running

Any ideas?

Just been out for a normal 7 miler. Half a mile from end, I got this sudden huge pain in my knee and couldn't run anymore.

I can't bend it now without being in excrutiating pain.

I can stand on it and walk as long as I keep it straight - although obviously I look like a complete idiot.

What have I done?? Is it just runner's knee or have I possibly torn something? And what can I do??

I'm icing and elevating but can't take anti-inflammatories, so I'm a bit stuck for other ideas.


  • Go see a doctor?
  • Have now spoken to a physio who told me to do what i was already doing (ie icing and elevating) and see what happens from there. If I can bend my knee enough to get in the car tomorrow, she's happy for me to go and see her!

    I'm hoping that it's not the anterior cruciate ligament - assuming that I would be in no doubt about it if it was (ie totally unable to concentrate because of the pain).
  • Have just spoken to my runner GP friend who confirms you should see a doc don't want it to get worse because you haven't done anything. Good luck with it. PP
  • Thanks PP. Can't get an appointment tonight but will queue up for one in the morning!
  • Sounds like cartilige to me, but I am no expert. I am just going on my own experiences. Happened to me (twice). Once whilst playing hockey. Once through running. However, when running, it come on over time and progressively got worse (long story, to do with tight quads pulling the knee cap off line). But the symptoms were the same, difficulty to bend knee, and big pain when bending the knee.

    My GP wasn't much use. Went to a specialist at BUPA, because the waiting list was so long who referred me to a physio who was sport related.

    Fingers crossed for you that I am wrong and that you'll be up and running very soon. Good luck.
  • I'd say that any excrutiating knee pain should be looked at ASAP incase it's something really bad.

    If it's still horrificly bad, and I mean really bad, then you could go to casualty.

    Unlikely to ACL though. As Mr Bump says it could be cartilage damage, but lets home we're all wrong.

    Good luck with it!
  • Just wondered where you got with this ? I have almost the same thing- cant bend knee without pain, can walk ok if I do not bend it. It hurts to walk, alot more then running. It basicly hurts to put pressure on my knee when its bent.

     Its been 3 weeks for me, (GP told me that wasnot long enough, needed to wait a month), my gp has also already refered me to a physio of a different problem, but its an 18 week waiting list (no £££ to get my own physio) and am hoping to slip this in when I see them.

     But thats not till end of february 2009. In the mean time I am stuck with not being able to run and am in pain when I walk anywhere- I don't think my pain is as badly painful as yours, as I am able to bite my tounge and play nvery loud music and breathe through it... but would love any news on what this is or any advice you took that helped it go away- just not sure what to do!

  • Jennie,

    I agree with everything Mr Bump says.

    It sounds like a cartlige problem to me but as others say you need to get seen by an expert (not a GP).

    I'd also google itbs and get this checked out also to make sure you've not got Illiotibial Band Syndrome which can often be confused with a cartilidge problem if the pain is on the outside of your knee.

    If it is the cartlidge i'd suggest that a physio will also be of little help at the moment (physios feel free to contradict / agree as appropriate) as if it is a cartilige prolem then I'd imagine you'll need an operation (Arthroscopy) to get it sorted following which a physio will be invaluable.

    The GP should refer you to a Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon who will better be able to assess and hopefully rectify the problem, waiting 4 weeks for this to happen will only prolong things as there may be a bit of a wait once you've been referred.

    I had this problem a couple of years ago and had the op (luckily I get BUPA through my work). After afew weeks recovery I got back to things and now have no real problems.

    If you also search arthroscopy in the keyword search at the top of this page you'll get other peoples views as know others experiences are not as positive as mine.

    One final point is that if you can get referred to a Surgeon or Physio who runs themselves you'll find them much more positive and will offer greater assistance than a 'non runner'. This can make all the difference.

    All the best and let us know how you get on.


  • jennie - hi and sorry not to have seen this earlier.  only just spotted it had been resurrected.

    in the end mine was simple, good old illio-tibial band tightness causing my kneecap to be pulled out of line hence the sudden excruciating pain when the kneecap was pulled out.  i just had massage and did lots of stretches and it has never reoccured...

    not sure if that will help.

  • Thanks for all the advice Ali and Caramel Macchiato (cute name!), not sure its what I thought it was- have looked up all the suggestions and then just yesterday, its changed- I hate to use the word here (I thought it was going away) it has "developed". Now it hurts when I bend my knee- but especially when I pull it tight (ie to stretch quads), again, not too painful to plough through, but enough to make me stop what I am doing.

    I have looked up an image of the knee muscles- it feels like its now comming from behind my knee, the ligaments that  join the thigh to the top of the calf and that run either side of the back of the knee if that makes sense. It does feel good to stretch,- ie touching my toes and standing like that for a few minutes, so I guess I will see how that goes.

     Wanted to message back to say it was all sorted or I had a plan of what to do but the problem just seems to have gotten a life of its own! I do one thing to try to help it (like cycle insted of run) and something else goes wrong!! Agggh!

     Thanks for the advice again- it is/was much appreciated!

  • Dear all,

    One of the common themes in this health fora is the sudden onset of pain in the knee as a symptom.

    Pain can arise from structures outside of the joint (extracapsular) and from structures inside the joint (intracapsular). The one thing you do not want to miss is the intracapsular cause of pain. This can be due to the following:

    1. A torn meniscus like this one
    2. A loose body
    3. Hoffa's posterior fat pad syndrome

    The intracapsular causes of pain, more often than not, the cause of progressive degenerate change (osteoarthritis).

    How can you tell if you have an intracapsular cause of pain?

    1. Locked knee (rarely caused by extracapsular causes of knee pain)
    2. Intermittent sharp pain, well localised and sometimes associated with a click
    3. Generalised swelling of the knee after periods of pain (due to progression of degenerate change)
    4. Getting worse not better
    5. Well localised
    6. Changes in place around the knee but still well localised (loose body)

    Hope this helps you all to decide when to get to a GP for an opinion and then a referral to a Consultant in Orthopaedics and Trauma.

    John Hardy

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