The last thing I knee-d right now…

Running summary for w/c Monday 30th January
Miles: 14.3
Cross training: Strengthening exercises, kettlebell, and swimming

Last week was an easy week in my training (recommended every 4th week of training), following 3 weeks of 20+ miles a week and it was definitely needed. My training has been hampered by a sore knee since Christmas and, whilst I did rest it for a week at the beginning of January, I have since been trying the old method of ignore it until it goes away.

Needless to say my knee is still sore.

The sticking point for me with this injury is that it is so non-descript. It’s not a pulled hamstring or a sprained ankle, it’s not sciatica or tendonitis. It’s just a really sore knee, something that is surely to be expected when you spend 4-5 hours a week jumping on concrete and forcing it to withstand the impact of 3 times my body weight hundreds of thousands of times over…

When I started running regularly in 2010 everyone around me was really positive and happy for me. I was running for charity and so friends, family and colleagues sponsoring me all felt like they had a stake in my success. This was for the most part appreciated and their excitement at my small weekly successes was hugely encouraging, but one particular colleague warned me every day that we worked together (thankfully she was part-time) that I must be careful of my knees. Indeed knees seem to be the main body part that concerns non-runners most – not our hair (sweaty and messy), our backs (sore lower backs and, for bustier ladies, upper backs too), or our bums (poor, poor overworked glutes) – no, no… always our knees.

My current knee problem started over Christmas (that’s right, over a month ago) when I went for a short run on Christmas morning. I hadn’t overdone it in the pub the night before and, clocking only around 3 miles, I certainly didn’t overdo it on the mileage that day. I really don’t know what happened, but when I got back to my family home my knee was sore. Not painful, certainly not swollen or sprained, just sore. I ignored it, opened a beer with my stepdad and uncle, and enjoyed Christmas.

A couple of days later I felt the post-crimbo sluggishness setting in and decided to try and combat it with a nice long run – just a slow one before the New Years Day 10K. I promised my mam that I would be careful (she’d noticed me limping and, having spent 9 months making my knees,  was suitably worried about me breaking them) and set off on a loop around my home town. It was definitely a little bit more sore when I got home after 6 miles, so I put a bag of frozen peas on it, laid out on the sofa in front of CSI, and figured everything would be fine in the morning.

It wasn’t fine in the morning, and by the end of the New Years Day 10K my knee  was feeling not just sore, but painful, and also pretty unstable. This was when I started to worry. Of course it wasn’t when I stopped running though – that would have been far too sensible. I stopped running after a threshold session a couple of days later. I rested for a week and eased gently into my training for Berlin.

The rest certainly did my knee some good, but my knee continued to feel unstable throughout January. Stairs are difficult to climb or descend and I still find myself limping slightly as if overcompensating for it some weakness. And my running seems a bit, well… wonky.

My reluctance to admit that the knee pain was a problem was silly, I know. But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago when the knee pain transformed itself into the most excruciating back pain along with a risidual throbbing that made me cry with pain that I popped a load of ibuprofen and went to the GP.

The GP was just grand. She poked, prodded, swung my legs around a bit and referred me to physio. She also decided that I was sensible enough to know when to stop running, and so she did not order me to stop – just to be careful. Over the last few weeks, while the pain hasn’t subsided completely it has changed. The pain that was originally under my knee cap has become a muscular ache further up my outer thigh. It’s pretty hard to pin point, but I did my best to explain everything to the physio this morning, especially the feeling of instability that I feel when climbing/descending stairs, stepping onto pavements, or during the first mile or so of a run.

Considering that my reluctance to face up to this knee problem was because it seemed too vague to be real injury, the physio’s initial diagnosis has made me giggle: anterior knee pain and some possible ITB syndrome, mostly caused by muscle tightness and unequal leg strength. That’s right, the diagnosis is… the my knee is sore. But, as I have been given follow up appointments I suppose that even a vague pain is worthy of attention and treatment when it is persistant and when it interferes with your everyday movement and activity.

The treatment at the moment consists of some new stretches, focusing on my outer thighs and glutes, and during my next appointments I will be having my gait analysed and being put on a strengthening programme. I didn’t feel like I was a ‘proper’ enough runner to worry about aches and pains like this, but both the GP and the physio took it seriously and are intent on helping me to overcome it. I was genuinely worried that my GP’s answer would be to stop running, and that my running-inflicted injury did not make me eligible for NHS treatment. However my GP told me that she would do what she thought best to keep me excersising in a way that I enjoy and that keeps me healthy. Asking me to stop would be an absolute last resort. You have no idea what a relief that was!

My advice therefore to all of you naughty runners currently nursing aches, pains and twinges is that if the pain is persistant and if your usual tried and tested methods aren’t working then just go to your GP. You may not need referring, but surely it’s better to find out sooner rather than later.

P.S. Please excuse the appalling attempt at a humorous title for this post. I couldn’t resist…

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