(Medical / knee school handouts are below) A few months ago my knee started hurting worse than it ever had before. Then one day I woke up and tried to go down the stairs, but with a leg locked straight and a good amount of stabbing pain, it just wasn't happening. I tried to R-I-C-E my way through it for a few weeks, figuring my joints were just getting rusty, as I am no longer in my teens. Ok, or twenties. And then I got on a plane. About an hour after takeoff, I started feeling this burning sensation that built up until I thought my knee might explode. I drank and fidgeted and massaged my way through the flight, then hobbled through the Houston airport to get to the nearest bar to wait for my connection, crying over the fact that I had to get on *another* plane and have my knee try to explode again. I was seconds away from getting on the disabled and fat people cart for a pain free ride to the gate, but my pride held on strong.
So when I got home, I decided it was time to seek official medical attention. I knew I hadn't ripped anything, or I wouldn't be able to walk, right? So I did what any rational person would do. I logged onto WebMD and self diagnosed myself. I came up with no less than 7 potential conditions, 5 of which require surgery. But when I saw a real live doctor, he knew right away...Runner's Knee. I still get a kick out of this because it implies that I am some sort of athlete. Occasional Jogger's Knee might be more appropriate. It's nothing super serious. It just basically means you have a muscle imbalance around your knee, and they push and pull and give you pain and popping. In most runner's cases, the quads get too strong, so you need to build up the hamstrings, and inner and outer thigh muscles. I've spent a small fortune on physical therapy (aka knee school) over the past few months, and decided it might be nice to share the exercises and save you some cash. Most of them are just basic stretches, but if you do them everyday, the pain does subside, and you can get to using small ankle weights in a few weeks. I still haven't run again yet. It's been about 3 months. I'm now up to "brisk walk", but I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
Anyhow, if you are having knee pain, go see a sports medicine doctor. I claim no responsibility for any injury you had, have , or may have as a result of these exercises. You need to get your strength tested to figure out which muscles you need to strengthen and which to lay off.
In general - avoid squats, especially with a weight bar, and stay away from that seated quad leg extension machine. I was warned to stay away from the elliptical and bikes as well. So I tried them both. You *should* probably stay off the elliptical. Very rough on the quads. Bike riding has been hit or miss, but a 15 minute ride, then a rest, then a ride home seems to be having no negative effects, as long as I don't start with pain.
For the exercises - start with the stretches on page 1 below. Do 3 sets of each, holding 30 seconds. If you feel pain, STOP! Then move onto the laying down leg lifts. For the first week or two, don't use any weights. Just do the reps very slowly and focus on form. As you feel your legs getting stronger, add 1 then 3 pound ankle weights.
If you have access to a Pilates Reformer type machine (aka The Shuttle at knee school), you should be able to do Leg Lowering, Leg Circles (both ways), and Leg presses after about 2 weeks. Highly recommended. Those machines rock, and got my abs in better shape as well.
I'm very excited that you can actually fix this thing with a few simple stretches. Had no idea how much I'd actually miss running. And the exercises are simple enough that you can just lay on the floor and do them while watching tv. The other good news is that after about 3 weeks of these stretches, your legs really start to look pretty fantastic. It's a good well rounded warm-up that you'd better get used to, because to prevent runner's knee from coming back again, you're going to need to keep up with these exercises. Happy Healing!
(Click blurry stretching man page below, print, then click back to this blog and repeat for page 2. Additional 4 page handout from the MD is below)
Also - Ice is your friend. It makes me squirm and I'm not a fan of how my knee feels immediately afterward (even the frozen food section at the grocery store makes my knee hurt), but the medical people keep insisting I ice it when done with stretches or exercise. I think it does help. I'm just a baby that doesn't like cold. You & Your Runner's Knee - The Medical Handout
Did this help?! Comments and other tips welcome!...