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I have been running for about two years now, on and off, and recently I have had a mild - but annoying - pain behind my right knee. I went to an orthopedist, who gave me a cortizone shot, but told me it was most likely a tendonitis. Since then, I've determined that the tendon which runs behind my leg - on the outside - is unbelievably tight on the right leg (I determined this by comparing with my left leg). When I say "unbelievably tight", I mean to the point that a nurse thought it was initially a bone. Now I am still able to run, but that nagging pain is always there, whether I run or not. What can I do to loosen this tendon? I mean in terms of stretches, exercises, even medicinal treatments. Do I need to see a doctor, or is this mild enough to take care of on my own?

Thanks for any help. Also, I don't know the exact name of the tendon, but from various pictures on Google, I would guess it's the hamstring tendon.

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First I would sugget an evaluation by a physical therapist. They can take a look at your alignment and do a running analysis to see why you have such a muscle imbalance. Sometimes stretching a tight muscle can help, but sometimes it takes looking at the alignment of the foot, ankle, knee, hip, pelvis and low back to strengthen weak muscles and stretch tight ones. Here are some links you may find helpful:

  • For specifics of stretching or releasing a tight hamstring muscle (including foam roller massage, check out this q/a about how to stretch hamstrings.

  • This q/a has some excellent information about running without pain, such as footwear, running surfaces, frequency, form, etc.

  • I'm also including a link to the question about patello-femoral pain. While this isn't your problem, it includes additonal exercises balance out muscles at the knee.

The hip flexors and rotators may also needed to be addressed, so a visit with a therapist should be well worth your time to get exercises that specifically address the cause of your problem. Hope that helps.

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You might find this post in T-nation very interesting. A summary: a study with runners suffering from an Achilles tendon injury, healed very well by performing eccentric exercises, aka negative phases.

Eccentric exercises seem to be very useful for healing tendonitis, in several studies. More details in this answer

Additionally, you may find useful to spend some time reading Scooby's website, a fitness internet veteran. He pays himself a special attention to stretching and working out his hamstrings. See his hamstring stretch in Youtube. Note that he starts with:

You can get away without stretching almost every muscle in your body, except your hamstrings. Maintiaining hamstring flexibility is really important for every sport (...)

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