Saturday, April 17, 2010

Runner's Knee and the Sports Medicine Dr.

Early in my running, I ran as hard as my lungs and legs would let me. Other than being tired, I had no injuries. I figured that it would always be that way. When my knee pain began after my first half-marathon in 2005, I was pretty freaked out. It hurt when I wasn't running and I was convinced that I had irreversibly damaged my right knee specifically. I decided to see a sports medicine specialist to assess the damage. First they asked me some questions. My favorite dummy moment of the day was when the Dr. asked if I had any inflammation, I brilliantly responded, "no, but it does get warm and it feels like blood is rushing to my knee." Next they took x-rays of my knees and did a physical exam. The Dr. twisted my legs in a variety of awkward directions, asking if it hurt. Lots of "no's" until he pushed down on the top of my patella with both thumbs and asked me to bend my knee. I literally yelped, the diagnosis: runner's knee (go figure). The problem (patella-femoral syndrome) was described to me thusly: "your outer thigh is stronger than your inner thigh which pulls your kneecap laterally into your femur, causing pain." So my legs, or at least half of my legs, were weak. The good news: there didn't appear to be any permanent damage. They gave me a list of exercises that I could do to strengthen my chicken thighs and a prescription for naproxen to cover the "inflammation." I scheduled a follow-up visit and went on my merry way.

Running continued as before. The naproxen worked well and I did the exercises with roughly 80% compliance rate. I noticed about 50% improvement, which is exactly how I described it to the Dr. at my follow-up visit about 2 weeks later. This statement was unsatisfactory for him and he referred me to a physical therapist to assure that I was doing my exercises correctly and completely. I was disturbed that the Dr. expected 100% improvement after such a short period of time, specifically with an injury developed over a relatively long period of time. Unable to shell out more lettuce for regular PT visits, I left feeling dejected, hopeless, and skeptical of the care I received.

My battle with runner's knee continued with zero improvement until recently when I ditched the cushy moon boot running shoes for thin soles or no soles at all. I noticed improvement about a month into regular barefoot and minimalist running. While there may still be many chapters I write on this subject, my runner's knee is currently resolved.

Recent research incriminates the shoe as a potential cause of leg injury.

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