I have a knee pain update for you today with the steps I’ve been taking to strengthen my knee and stop the pain while continuing to train. It’s an injury I’ve dealt with successfully before, so I’m hoping others suffering the same problem will find it helpful! Note: Please be smart and see a doctor if your symptoms persist or worsen – this treatment plan has worked for my situation, but may not be suited to yours.
Knee Pain History
My knee pain (left knee) first occurred after a series of hillier-than-usual runs in NY in November 2013. It first felt like the pain was on the outside of my knee (indicative of IT Band Syndrome), but after a few weeks, the pain was clearly at the bottom and inside of my knee. After taking it easy in December and January, my knee wasn’t getting any better so I went to see a physical therapist in Feb 2014, who diagnosed the injury as patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), aka runner’s knee, which occurs when the kneecap isn’t tracking well in the “kneecap groove. Thankfully, mine was a relatively mild case – I was cleared to run during my injury – and after several weeks of PT exercises, my knee felt strong and healed (yay!).
I had no issues the rest of last year, but as I started to build my mileage and run hillier routes this year (hills really seem to bug my knee), my wonky knee started giving me trouble a couple of weeks ago. The symptoms feel exactly the same as last time, so I’m assuming it’s the same injury flaring back up.
My Treatment Plan
Here’s what I’ve been doing to keep the pain at bay while strengthening my knee to prevent future incidents:
– KT tape – kinesiology tape is a stretchy fabric tape used to provide extra support to injured areas, kind of like a light cast. It’s pricey (~$15 a roll, which is about 8 applications for me), but I really feel the difference it makes and the extra support it provides to my knee while running and doing daily activities. One application lasts about 3-5 days (you can shower with the tape on), so a roll lasts me about a month. I use the “full support” application technique.
– PT exercises – my therapist prescribed me a set of 8 exercises to do at home, and I started doing them again as soon as I felt the pain resurface this year. It’s stuff like squats with a resistance band, clamshells, leg lifts in several directions with ankle weights (similar routine here)– all designed to strengthen the muscles around the knee and in the upper leg. I’ve done my PT exercises 4-5 times each week for the last three weeks and my knee already feels much stronger.
– Glucosamine supplements – I’m skeptical about how well our bodies absorb supplements, but my coworker swore that his knee pain disappeared once he started taking glucosamine. I figure it can’t hurt (unless I choke on the giant pills), and truthfully my knee pain has disappeared since I started taking them (although that could be from everything else I’m doing too).
– Workout adjustments – My therapist told me that as long as I didn’t feel pain while running, I could keep doing it, so that’s what I’ve been doing this time around too. I stick to flat courses (or the treadmill), and if I feel any pain, I stop – no point in making an injury worse while training! I’ve also added in more yoga; my therapist encouraged cross-training to train the leg muscles (and rest of the body) in different ways and reduce imbalances/ weaknesses throughout the body.
– Practical steps – no heels! My work shoes were definitely aggravating my knee, so I bought a pair of low ankle boots that I wear everywhere.
After 3 weeks of this treatment plan, my knee feels much stronger and doesn’t hurt 95% of the time. It still hurts to straighten it completely (I may be hyper-extending though), and it still sometimes feels like my kneecap is in the wrong place. But it doesn’t hurt while running (see yesterday’s post, lol) and I’m extremely grateful for that. I’ll continue to do everything for the next couple of weeks or until my knee feels completely normal!