Last night I was hanging with a Katy Perry impersonator. Cher and Elvis look-alikes were in our company, too, but Copycat Katy clearly rocked the holiday party this year, and my knee, with all her bouncing.
Okay, it’s not entirely her fault. I bounced and danced and jumped and let the adrenaline of this great time distract me from the injury I’ve been actively trying to rehabilitate for 4 weeks now.
I’ve had runner’s knee syndrome for a total of six weeks. Just two weeks ago, I was still miserable. Now that I’m six weeks in though, I’m learning how to live with the pain of my runner’s knee in several ways.
First, I should offer a clarification, my runner’s knee is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. There are several issues that cause runner’s knee, and this sone is mine. Patellofemoral pain feels like an aching pain around the tops of my kneecaps and down the sides. Sometimes I describe the more painful moments as “feeling sparky” because I’ll get these little jolts of pain that are so difficult to describe. It just feels like my knees are lighting up in a most painful way.
Before the sparks came, it felt like my left kneecap was floating after runs for about two weeks. Then came the dull aching pain just after running. Then came the obvious signs that something was wrong. I wish I’d listen to those early signs better, and I wish I’d gone to a physical therapist sooner. But then again, it was probably too early to tell. The only course of action that might have spared my knees from this development was reading on others’ experiences, but discussions of this elusive pain syndrome are few and far between. The pain is also so different for every person that it’s hard to know you’re developing this syndrome until it’s in a full-blown, impair-your-running condition.
My hope is that writing about this painful injury helps someone else.
Since I discovered what was causing my kneecap ache and pain, I’ve started a regular stretching regimen. Instead of running or the HIIT training I love so dearly, I’m doing lighter, slower stretching workouts to get the cause of my pain (tight Psoas muscles) back in working order. To get a cardio fix, I make myself wait several days without any really strong aches and then I go easy in a cycling class. Cycling (or spinning) allows me to work my leg muscles in a way that provides lower-impact training opportunities.
How do I stretch now?
My stretches are not as dynamic as I’d like them to be, but they have been very, very deep. I didn’t start as deep as I needed because, again, my Psoas muscles were so tight and weak, but two weeks of stretching 4-5 times a day can do a body good. To stretch, I do all of the following:
- lotus pose
- pigeon pose
- camel pose
- kneeling heel-to-bum (H to the B!)
I do these stretches first thing in the morning, last thing before I go to bed, and at least twice throughout the day.
What else makes the pain improve?
Icing: I try to ice within 30 minutes of finishing a light exercise routine. Ideally, I ice once more in the afternoon, but with work getting in the way sometimes, that’s not always possible.
Proper posture: I’ve been told I have perfect strength and terrible posture. How nice! I started taking the posture suggestion more seriously and noticed a difference. The pain was more manageable. I definitely felt a lot of pressure in my low back the first few days, but it gets easier with practice.
When will I know the pain is gone forever?
Never isn’t the most comforting answer, but it’s the honest one I’m working to accept. It could take up to a year to improve. It may always linger. And that’s okay now.
Through this painful experience, I’ve had an opportunity to slow down. My movement has been more deliberate. I’ve learned more about lifting exercises thanks to my great powerlifting coach of a fiancé. I’ve also learned that I REALLY love spinning classes and am discovering this entirely new form of exercise and how good it’s been to my body. Pain causes me a lot of anxiety, but I’m learning how to see the positive in all this.
If you suffer–or ever suffer–from knee pain, don’t let your self suffer long. Give it a week or so and get to the physical therapist. I’m not qualified to give medical advice on this, but as a friend, I hope you’ll take my word and do it. You won’t be told anything that can hurt you, only help you.