Physio says no running for 3 months! - Couch to 5K

Couch to 5K
107,479 members138,550 posts

Physio says no running for 3 months!


Hi guys,

Haven't been on here much in a while due to various things going on. Well, I finally battled my way back from calf strain (and before that shin pain), with help from a physio.

I started running again and over a couple of months got myself back up to running 6km, but then over a week ago I got persistent knee pain in my right leg, which won't go away.

Went back to see the physio and she said absolutely no running for 3 months minimum. Instead I have to go to stretch daily and strengthen legs and core with weight training and pilates.

I've been plagued by injuries ever since I started running and would really like to continue with it but I'm losing hope. Has anyone here ever recovered from a long-term knee problem and successfully returned to running?

32 Replies

As much as you run to get fit, you also get fit to run, by working to condition the muscles so that they're far better placed to handle the forces placed through them with each footfall.

Despite your physio's recommendation/grim assessment, use the next 2-3 months to actively work upon developing strength of your legs and core in the gym (particularly the calves).

If you decide to frequent a gym and it happens to possess a StairMaster, (both JD and PureGym have them), begin to use it, since not only will it help to develop all-round strength and endurance of the muscles in your legs, allowing you to return from injury in a far stronger position, its use will also maintain/improve cardiovascular fitness, too.

Start slowly, but as you become more accustomed to it, you'll hopefully grow to appreciate its worth, since it provides just as good a workout as running, without the stress upon the joints, in addition to toning and sculpting.

As such, by climbing stairs, gradually increasing the rate at which they rotate with improving endurance, the strength of the muscles and ligaments that support your knees and calves will all improve measurably, thus, removing the need to perform weighted squats, particularly if lower back and core strength is currently lacking.

Granted, through regular Pilates and stretching, the strength of your core and flexibility in lower lumbar region and will undoubtedly increase over the coming weeks, but the movements performed ought to be become part of your weekly routine once you've recovered from injury, largely to ensure that you don't find yourself back on the IC.

northernlass1965Graduate in reply to MrNiceGuy

Thanks for this brilliant advice, NiceGuy - I will get on to that stepping machine at the gym! I haven't actually managed to get myself there yet as I've been ill but plan to be there tomorrow. I still have pain in my knees though so it is presumably ok to do this?

You're welcome. Simply gauge how your knee feels while using the StairMaster and take it from there. Hopefully discomfort won't be experienced, but if it does, consider using the recumbent bike (the one with legs out in front) to help develop strength in your thighs, which will improve stability of your knee.

Where in the knee is discomfort experienced?

northernlass1965Graduate in reply to MrNiceGuy

Hello and thank you for replying. The pain is primarily under my right kneecap towards the right side of it. There is less, but very occasional, pain in my left kneecap too.

Not a problem. However, having just read your reply about the knee being strapped, to remedy its misalignment, if discomfort is experienced when ascending/descending stairs, it may be worth avoiding the StairMaster, since it may exacerbate the problem.

Did your physio give any explanation as to the cause, such as tight/weak hamstrings and calves or flat feet?

northernlass1965Graduate in reply to MrNiceGuy

Hi MrNice, to my shame, I haven't been back to the gym as yet but I WILL go on Monday!!! The physio said I had tight calves and hamstrings but no flat feet, thank goodness! Sorry it's taken me a couple of days to reply - going flat out with work, even over the public holiday. Sigh.... And cramming in social meetings with friends/family between. Sigh, how on earth did I ever find time to run before?

Glad to hear that the misalignment has been caused by tightness in the calves/hamstrings and not through over pronation, caused by flat feet, since inflexibility of the affected muscle groups can be rectified through regular stretching; you simply have to ensure that the stretches become common-place, in order to injury-proof the body.

If your physio has recommended calf raises/heel drops, for example, when allowing the heels to drop lower than the toes, ensure that 2-3 seconds is taken to lower body weight (enjoying/enduring the stretch felt), before rising up again.

Upon rising back up (contracting the calf), concentrate the weight through the ball of your foot and big toe, squeezing at the top of the movement, before slowly lowering.

Don't be tempted to rise and fall quickly (known as bouncing), since the calves won't be fully elongated.

I would say if a physio says 3 months off then they are aiming to get you to run again. They are very honest with there diagnosis and what they are saying is your joints and muscles need to be supported more and their predictions is that should take 3 months. I know what it feels like not to run, I'm getting over surgery and I'm not allowed to run just yet. Over on the Stregnth and Flex forum we are starting a stretch Quest on Monday that might help to keep you motivated. You can use your physio work. Are you allowed to walk? I used that when I wasent allowed to run to keep me outside and feeling active.

northernlass1965Graduate in reply to Realfoodieclub

Thanks Realfoodie - I will have a look at it - I've been ill the past few days with a stomach bug of some sort. Feeling a bit down about not running but I know that I have to be positive, take action and I will get there! Yes, I am allowed to walk, cycle and swim and go to pilates.


What Realfoodieclub says....:) She knows you know!

northernlass1965Graduate in reply to Oldfloss

Thanks for the tip, Oldfloss!

Yep me! I had runners knee after week 3 and had to take two months off before returning to the programme. Then last year just before my first HM I developed a bone bruise in my knee (which I really think was ITB syndrome but who am I to argue with the experts?) and had to take three months off running. It was hard but I kept fit by cycling and doing lots of gym work on my upper body and coming on here reminded me I was still a runner! I got back to it last April but have still stuggled with my knee.

On the advice from a physio I'm stretching 3-4 times every day and doing lots of glutes exercises which are helping a lot.

What exactly is wrong with your knee? Did you get a diagnosis? Three months seems a long time but it's not really. Keep your fitness up and work out as much of your upper body as possible. You are a runner therefore you will run 🏃🏃🏃

northernlass1965Graduate in reply to Irishprincess

Thanks Irish - I feel a bit disheartened to be honest and am actually a bit wary of running again in case I do permanent damage to my knee. I didn't actually get a diagnosis, no, except my knee still hurts. The physio said my kneecap was out of alignment (although I couldn't tell) and strapped it up to force it back over towards the right side, if you see what I mean. The trouble I have with getting to the gym so much is time - and at the moment motivation problems, sigh..... I'll get there though. Thanks for your post.

IrishprincessGraduate in reply to northernlass1965

You really need a diagnosis so that you can get it treated and you know what to do to prevent the pain coming back again. Perhaps the diagnosis is that your kneecap is out of alignment? But I would have thought that a quick manipulation would sort that out.

It might be worth going to a sports physio as they tend to be more clued up on running injuries.

And you don't have to use a gym to keep fit. There are loads of YouTube videos that show you how to do exercises at home. Get yourself some resistance bands and you're away!

Ten minutes here and five minutes there, it all adds up.


The time will fly by if you are busy with exercises. Honestly, it will. Now you know what you have to do to get better you can move forward with a positive attitude that you are helping yourself and taking steps to get back to exercise. It mean seem ages today but believe me it goes quick!

I had a painful knee for ages early on which kept me out for a bit, but as you run more your body toughens up 🙂

Good luck 😃

northernlass1965Graduate in reply to misswobble

Thanks MissW - I really must find the time! It's so time-consuming, this fitness malarkey!!! haha.... I will hold that thought: "As you run more your body toughens up".


That must be so frustrating for you but I think the key might be those strengthening exercises. My husband developed a persistent knee problem following his return to running and could not run without aggravating it for over a year. Eventually, he had a scan which pointed to a couple of issues (patella femoral syndrome, wear and tear of cartilage and a little arthritis) but it was a physio that worked with him and gave him a series of exercises to increase strength and support of the knee which made the difference. Honestly, he almost gave up hope, but the exercises made such a difference and he has now returned to running using C25k( on my recommendation of course!) and is back to running 5k. His knee, so far, is absolutely fine. So see this period of not running as part of preparation for that return. I am sure you will get back to your running and wish you lots of luck.🙂

northernlass1965Graduate in reply to Sandraj39

Thanks for this very encouraging info Sandra. I don't suppose you are in London are you? If so, which physio did your hubby use? Yes, it is frustrating and yes, I have all but given up hope too!

Sandraj39Ambassador in reply to northernlass1965

Sorry, we're not in London but I am sure any physio who is interested in sports injuries would be able to see you back to running. Good luck.


I had back pain and knee pain. Eventually advised to go to chiropractor..... a series of appointments have changed all of that. It's not cheap but def worked for me.

I also now do body pump class 3 times a week to keep my muscles strong. .... Whole body workout in 45 mins.

Kinesiology tape also great.. not the cheap stuff from China!!

northernlass1965Graduate in reply to Pug1

Thanks too, for this. Did the chiropractor get rid of your knee pain too? Do you find that body pump classes help? We have those at my gym.

How about doing some aqua jogging while you are off running? It will keep the running motion muscle memory for when you are fit and allowed to start again.

northernlass1965Graduate in reply to agedsnailspace

I don't think they do acqua jogging at my gym club, unfortunately. I will look into some classes more locally though - thank you.


northernlass1965, I started a 5K program last year, April 1st 2016. 2 months into it, I had finally ran 30 minutes non stop. the local 5K was 7 days later. The day I hit that milestone, accidentally kicked a piece of sheet metal barefooted and sliced open the ball of my right foot. I couldn't run on it.

After three weeks, I started running again. I was on vacation and had ran a pretty steep hill. Soon after, my left knee became painful. The pain increased daily for a few weeks to the point where I could hardly use it. Later that summer, I started Physical Therapy, strengthening quads, hips, and glutes. 8 weeks of that before Thanksgiving and Christmas came a round when I had extended travel.

Finally, on January 28th 2017, I started over again. I completed a 5k app b y Redrock apps. It was free, I don't recommend it but hat's all I can afford.

During this training, my knee continued to hurt but less and less. I was plagued with excruciating shin pain. Every time I broke into a full run my shins would hurt. At times, I had to take up to 9 days off running until the pain left. Every time I ran 100 yard sprint repeats, I got tremendous shin pain.

To boot, I have scoliosis in my lower spine and my L5 to S1 vert has nearly no space at all. I get hip and lumbar spasms. Every time I push past my last accomplishment, I suffer back pain, stiffness and spasms for a few days. But you know what? I have these back issues anyways. So, I'd rather have them in a state of strength and fitness than in a state of sedentariness.

The shin splints still happen but they happen as I progress along. I am 53, will be 54 in 3 weeks. Today for the first time in my life, I jogged and ran 4.1 miles non stop and half of that was a continuous uphill climb.

Some days are bonk and misery. Others are unbelievable gains.

I have kept up my intense leg work outs even after therapy. I add weight and do these once a week. I am sore for three days every time too. But we need these areas strong. Core, hips, glutes, quads, hams etc...

I say, you are in no hurry. Take your time. Do what you need to do and get back on the run when ready. Take is easy and stay steady.

Have someone check out your form if you haven't already. Upper body posture, core engaged, no over striding, landing below the knees and hips, minimal to no heel strike, relaxed shoulders, elbows at near 90 degrees, etc.... You can feel it if you're causing shock and pounding through your body.

Start off from the beginning with proper form and reduce injury both now and in your future. I've seen some good runners on here that probably have some resources concerning form.

Or, you can look up Sage Canaday on Youtube with Vo2maxProductions or Sandy at Running Wild on YouTube. They give great information for free with no bait to buy. They have been a great help and encouragement to me. These two run a coaching business together for high end runners. Sage is proven with great stats and wins for a track record. Just a few days ago he took 1st for a 50 mile Lake Sonoma run in California.

Don't despair, strengthen and return. :-)

northernlass1965Graduate in reply to gdcgray

Hi gdcgray - I thought I'd posted a reply to you but looking on this forum again, it would appear not! Maybe I was having a senior moment, lol! Thank you so very much for your thoughtful and detailed post. I will get round to following your advice and doing strengthening work but have been suffering motivation problems and a "what's the point" mentality. However, after reading everything that everyone's posted in reply to me - I'm feeling encouraged again and hope to restart my strength training this Monday.

That was a fantastic achievement for you to come back from those injuries and your story is truly inspiring. I will have a look at those resources you've mentioned as I need all of the encouragement I can get at the moment.

Once again, thank you kindly for your excellent post.

gdcgrayGraduate in reply to northernlass1965

Thanks northernlass1965. I was afraid to run again too after that knee episode. It still hurts at night but is cooperating and getting stronger under load. I realized new enthusiasms after my second go.

I confess, I still fear other injuries. At 54, I can't afford too many long time outs. So, I am taking the pro's advice and taking it easy and slow with lots of longer easy runs to establish that base line cardio. We can't be in a hurry. The slow road is the fastest road.

By-the-way, I no longer have senior moments. Now, I am having lucid moments intermittently interrupting my not so lucid norm.

I wish you the best! :-)

northernlass1965Graduate in reply to gdcgray

Thanks Gray, yes, big injuries can result in long time-outs, so I wish you all the best in achieving your fitness goals and avoiding injury.

I guess I will try to embrace my inner tortoise, haha! Good luck with your running xx

Just wanted to say a belated but really big thank you to everyone who posted such helpful and encouraging comments. I must admit I am scared to run again (eventually) in case I do permanent damage to my knee. A friend who's a nurse says it's just a bad idea to go back to running again, especially at my age - 51 - because at this age we have less oestrogen, which protects us from joint pain etc. So that has put me off too, which is a shame.

All the folks who started running in their 50s and 60s, how did you manage to avoid injury - is it just that I'm unlucky or is this a really common thing? And are you afraid of causing permanent damage to your joints by continuing to run?

Once again, thanks all! I really miss running.

IrishprincessGraduate in reply to northernlass1965

That's rubbish about running ruining your knees. Its a throwaway comment usually from people who don't have a clue what they're talking about. That nurse should have known better because it's actually now been proven that running builds strength in our knees and is good for them! Especially as we get older.

51 is a youngster here so that's not a reason to stop running. There are loads of older folks here running amazing distances and doing amazing things. And yes many of us get injuries, usually through doing too much too soon, extending distances, running too fast, bad luck, etc. Running is a high impact sport yes but for me the benefits far outweigh those risks and so it's worth it to keep running. Very few of us can avoid injury so you are not alone. You get better and you run again.........

Only you can make the decision for you and I hope that you continue.

northernlass1965Graduate in reply to Irishprincess

You've convinced me, Irishprincess. I will get myself back to fitness and give it another go. My injuries I think are because of doing too much too soon - but I was only running for 40 mins three times a week - so not exactly overdoing it. My body seemed happier when I was running 30 mins a time or less twice a week.

IrishprincessGraduate in reply to northernlass1965

Most of us have got that t-shirt, doing too much too soon ☹️ but pleased to see you're going to give it another go. If your body was happier doing 30 minutes then do that. You can do that forever but if you do build up then just do it very slowly.

Northernlass Have you read Born to Run? It totally changed my entire attitude and approach to running and is an amazing and enlightening read. I am a bit of a stuck record about it I’ll admit! But it’s written by a guy who was basically told he shouldn’t run as he kept getting injured, so he goes on an amazing and fascinating journey meet tribes who run 50 miles a day for fun, ultra-runners, evolutionary experts and top experts in the field of running -his conclusions are eye opening. The main takeaway is that we mostly get injured because we focus on speed and distance and ‘pushing ourselves’ rather than thinking about form and the signals we’re getting from our body. And that expensive running shoes with too much cushioning and support basically help and encourage us to ignore both. He also says it’s important to pay attention to our love of running as it’s literally what we evolved to do! And - as my chiropractor once pointed out to me when I kept getting back injuries - usually it’s not running that’s the problem - it’s what you do when you’re not running (ie too much sitting/poor lifting etc) that’s the real problem! I’m not saying don’t listen to your physio but read it in your 3 months off and it might change your approach when you start again. I think the worst advice from ‘Laura’ is the heel striking advice - this is THE worst and most injury-inducing way to run! But one piece of advice she did give which chimes with the Born to Run book is that you should run imagining that someone on the other side of a hedge can see you passing but only see your head - you should aim to run in such a way they can’t tell if you’re running or walking, ie gliding forwards smoothly rather than bouncing up and down. If you try thinking hard about this rather than speed when you run, you’ll find you drop your hips, relax your knees and put your energy into pushing forward rather then bouncing up and down - it actually makes you move forwards faster with less effort, and I’m sure must be better for your joints. Feels weird when you first do it though if you don’t normallt run like that so prob a good thing to practice if you’re building up after a break! Also throw in some short gentle runs on grass in bare feet occasionally. When we run in barefeet we automatically revert to good form, apparently!

You may also like...