I think when you officially get diagnosed with a running related injury, you should be considered a badass runner! Don't you all agree? When you can start pulling out terms like "IT band" and "runner's knee", I think it's official. Ok, maybe not a badass runner. I guess it just means I have some work to do to get back into good running shape!
Yesterday, I went to see a doctor about my knees. He's a regular doctor but I was referred to him by my marathon pace leader. She had seen him previously and he is a marathoner. Runner's know it's best to see a doctor that knows specifically about running. Other doctors will tell you just not to run. Runner doctors (yes, it's a technical term) will see what you have to work on so you can get back out there to run. By the way, my dad told me he was going to tell me that I had to stop running. I said "No Dad, runner doctors don't tell you to stop running!" When I told the doctor this, he said he has only ever told 3 people to stop running in 30 years of practicing and he said he thinks he cried more than they did!
If you read this post, you will remember that I had a mini-meltdown after Thanksgiving. After deciding to go for a 6 mile run on Saturday after Thanksgiving, I quickly realized that the pain I was having in my knee was still there. As I typically do, I decided to run through the pain. Almost after that, I decided I might have to only do 5 miles or 4 miles instead of the scheduled 6 I wanted to do. Within the first mile, I cut it down to a definite 4 miles (2 miles out and 2 miles back). As I got to the halfway point (2 miles out), I stopped to walk for a minute. Now, I never usually stop to walk on a 4 mile run. But the knee pain was still there and I wanted to assess the situation. I quickly decided that I should stop running. I thought if I continued running and doing the same thing as I always do, I could permanently injure myself. So I thought the best thing to do was to stop running now and see a doctor about the issue. I don't want to permanently injure myself since I want to start training right after Christmas for the Illinois marathon at the end of April.
But now I was 2 miles away from home. Sure I could have done a run/walk home, but I had a pity party on my walk home instead. I was frustrated and started to cry! If you know me, you know I cry when I get really frustrated. And I get frustrated when I feel like I can't (or shouldn't) do something. Let me sum that up for you... ME + CAN'T = FRUSTRATED = CRY. Now we are all on the same page? So I haven't run a single mile since that day.
Back to my badass-ness (again, technical term) and the Dr. visit. In a nutshell, I have runner's knee. For those that like long medical terminology, Runner's Knee is also called Chrondromalacia Patellae or Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. And for those that like medical definitions, you can google it. For now, I'll just tell you what it means for me.
The doctor put me through a series of tests which involved taking off my shoes and socks, standing on one leg (several different times), laying on my stomach, laying on my back, laying on my side, put your leg this way, stretch it that way, blah blah blah. And over and over I heard, "This is the worst I've seen!" or "Oh my god!" or "We need to take you out back and shoot you because it can't possibly be that bad!" (Seriously he said that!).
He did say I was young (thanks Doc!) and healthy (thanks again Doc!) so my issues are completely fixable!
1. My knee points outward instead of forward. And my arch rolls inward (fallen arches), which is the opposite of the way my knee points. Therefore this puts added pressure on your knee and instead of your bone or something (uh, yeah, I'm not a doctor) moving nice and smoothly through your femur bone, it tends to snap across it which can cause a popping or grinding sound (and my knees grind horribly!).
2. I have incredibly bad hip flexibility. This is why he wanted to shoot me. He said he had the worst until he's seen me. Therefore, I have to fix it or he has to shoot me. I told him I will fix it!
3. I have weak butt muscles (insert your own joke here)! He had me stand on one foot and he put his thumbs on my spine and grabbed my waist. When I stood on my left leg, he said I passed. When I stood on my right leg, he said I failed. I found out that my butt when I stand on my right side dips down instead of staying straight, which means my butt muscles are weak. I wonder if it means though that they are only weak on my right side and I have unbalanced butt muscles?? Hm... Anyway, runner's need a strong butt and core section.
4. Incredibly tight IT band.
To make a long story...uh...long...he told me I could either see a physical therapist or try a few exercises he gives me and see him in about 3-4 weeks. He said with the exercises he gives me, I should show an 85% improvement within 3 weeks. I think I may just try that first instead of physical therapy.
1. One exercise that I have to do is to strengthen a muscle on the knee. The doctor pressed down on the side of my knee with his finger and said "Flex this muscle." My response was "Uh, muscle? Uh, I don't know how!" He said "Exactly!" Frankly, I didn't know that there was a muscle there to flex! I basically have to do the following exercise 50x in the morning and 50x in the evening with both legs every day. It is called the Terminal Knee Extension. The exercise can be described as follows: "To perform a terminal knee extension exercise on the floor, sit upright with your leg straight and place a rolled-up towel, foam roller or other cylinder-shaped object under your knee. Flex your toes toward your shins and straighten you knee as far as possible." The doctor told me to focus on lifting the leg up by pushing the knee downward. Here is a video I found on you tube but I do it sitting up. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=as0u8caBrXA
2. The other exercise I have to do is a stretch for my hips. This is called Psoas re-sets. The Psoas is a muscle at your hip. For stability and to make sure I'm not turning my body, I have to stand facing a wall with my hands on the wall for stability. When I get better at it, I don't have to hold on to the wall. Then simply, take one leg and while keeping it straight, lift it to the back as far as I can and hold it for 10 seconds. Repeat 1 time. Then bend the leg at a 90 degree angle and repeat the exercise 2x. I have to do this stretch with both legs 5 times a day every day.
3. Arch supports or motion control running shoes. Basically the running shoes that I got fitted for at a running store prior to marathon training are the wrong shoes. They are cushion shoes and I need motion control shoes that won't let my foot/arch fall inward. He said right now to just by some arch support inserts and next time I get new running shoes, buy motion control ones. I actually believe the trail running shoes I purchased are motion control shoes with good arch supports.
NOTE: He said the Patellar Tendon Strap was probably a very good thing for me to use while marathon training and running the marathon because it absorbed some of the stress that would have otherwise have gone to my knee due to the arch issue.
I'm a badass! Ok, maybe not a badass! The good new is that I can run. He said there is no problem with me continuing to run! He said just try to go at a slightly slower pace for now until I do some of these exercises.
MORAL OF THE STORYIf you have a pain and it doesn't go away, see a doctor. And for runners, see a doctor that knows about running. I feel much better now that I saw the doctor and can get exercises to help me prepare for my upcoming marathon training!