February 6, 2011

Knee Pain - Ouch!

*Disclaimer:  I am not a medical professional or physical therapist, nor am I in a position to give medical advice. This post is based solely on my experience and amateur internet research. Please consult with a doctor or physical therapist if you are experiencing knee pain.

Something is wrong with one of my knees, my left knee specifically, which makes sense as it's always the left side of my body that turns against me. I'm talking to you, hip injury of '07. Preface: my knees never hurt. My hip? Sometimes, but never my knees.

About two weeks ago, my knee started hurting a little after my runs. Nothing too bad, just a little soreness. I ran six miles last Sunday and again, it was a little sore, but I was able to run the six miles. When I tried to run three miles a few days ago, my knee really started hurting around mile two. It hurt so bad, I had to limp the last mile home. Not good. If my '07 injury taught me anything, it's to quit running when it hurts. I've got a call into my doctor, but in the meantime I thought a little internet self diagnosis couldn't hurt.....

I read this question from the article "My knee aches" on RunnersWorld.com:

"Is the pain in the front of the knee below the kneecap? Does it get worse as you run? Have you recently added more mileage?"

If the answer is yes, then you may have Patellar tendinitis, which is inflammation of one of the knee-joint tendons. Tendinitis occurs when tissue breakdown outpaces regrowth, and is caused by increased mileage, hills (especially downhills), and pace. Running through tendinitis will make it worse and prolong your recovery. But treated early, it can heal in a few weeks. Here's how: cross-train, ice, wear a patella strap, take anti-inflammatories, stretch, and do exercises to strengthen the joint and quadriceps, such as leg extensions.

Okay, so increased mileage, check. Hills (especially downhills -- Mount Nasty), check. Pace, check. Around the time my knee started hurting, I started taking Saturday Spin classes, which was really stupid in hindsight. I run on Fridays and Sundays, so Saturday is supposed to be my 'rest day', not take the hardest Spin class in Nashville day.

It's been suggested by friends that I have patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), aka "runner's knee", which is another overuse injury. This one can have muscular causes like tight hamstring and calf muscles (check!) that put pressure on the knee and can cause the patella to track out of alignment. 

Symptoms include tenderness behind or around the patella, usually toward its center. You may feel pain toward the back of the knee, a sense of cracking or that the knee's giving out. Steps, hills, and uneven terrain can aggravate PFPS. At the first sign of pain, cut back your mileage. The sooner you lessen the knee's workload, the faster healing begins. Avoid knee-bending activities, canted surfaces, and downward stairs and slopes until the pain subsides. As you rebuild mileage, use a smaller stride on hills. Consider orthotics if new shoes don't fix the problem.

I'm pretty sure one of these things is what's wrong with my knee. I'm leaning towards runner's knee, but I'll leave the official diagnosis to my doctor. I didn't run today and I'm not planning on running this week. I may or may not run next Sunday. We'll see. In an abundance of caution, I'm also going to skip Spin this week. I'll probably still go to my strength training class and ride the elliptical. I'll report back.

P.S. Hey, this post is five years old! Here's where I am now.

P.P.S. Don't forget, I am NOT a physical therapist. This information is from a magazine article. Please consult with a doctor if you are experiencing knee pain.

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