If you also follow me on facebook you'll have seen quite a few posts recently related to knee pain. I wanted a chance to tell the full story rather than give a half impression with a status update here and there, so here goes.
In early February while running my 18 mile training session in Monterey, I first started to feel some achy pains in both left and right knees. They weren't the only things that ached though and I put it down to, well the fact that I had just run 18 miles. 2 weeks later while attempting to run 20 miles my left knee pulled me up short with sharp pain that forced me to stop running. My right knee hurt a little too but I was so focused on the agony in the left knee that I ignored it. I went to see an orthopedic massage therapist, Jon, who was slightly appalled at the state of my tight IT bands. He went to town on both right and left legs massaging out as much of the tension as he could.
On March 6th I ran the Napa Marathon. My right knee started to ache about mile 13 but it wasn't so bad. I blocked it out and kept going. At mile 19 my left leg let it be known that it just wasn't going to stand the pounding anymore and the sharp pain was too much to push through so I walked the last 7 miles. I took 3 weeks off and then feeling rested and happy out I went again. For the first few miles I felt great. It wasn't long though before the nagging in the right leg came back. Without a race to fight for or a screaming left leg suddenly I realized that this right leg had been complaining like this for a little while. I stopped running; walked a little; tried it out again but it still nagged while I jogged.
The next time I saw Jon I mentioned that my right leg wasn't feeling too hot. He paid closer attention to it and started murmuring about an MRI. The next week I ran a couple more times, just 3 or 4 miles each time and as before the first couple of miles felt great but it wasn't long before the pain returned. That weekend I ran 8 miles and about an hour after I got home the pain in my right knee kicked in and didn't go away. On Monday Jon asked me 6 times to make an appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon and I gave in and made an appointment.
I was lucky to get to see my GP the same day but the news she had for me was awful. Based on where I was feeling the pain and the other symptoms I had she suspected a torn meniscus. I was really thrown. The meniscus is cartilage and would require surgery to fix. She referred me to the Sports Medicine clinic to see an Orthopedic Surgeon later in the week. I have to say at this point I was pretty upset. I have a goal to run the Dublin marathon this year in October and it's so important to me. But I'm proud of how I reacted. I went right out and bought a new swimsuit and goggles and a book on swimming for triathletes. I've been toying with the idea of moving to tris once I've run Dublin and I figured I could use the time while I can't run to get my swimming skills to a baseline from which I can start training.
So that brings us today when I got in to see the surgeon. I saw the doctor for 3 minutes, max. Still, he was so sure of himself and so adept at figuring out exactly where my pain was that I really trusted him. He poked and prodded for a few moments and declared me free of anything torn or requiring surgery. Hurray! I was so relieved I nearly didn't hear what he said next. I might have shed a tear, in fact. So, what's to blame? Well would you believe that it's my fabulously curvy womanly hips. (Thanks Mum!)
Because I have quite wide hips my femur does not form a straight line from my hip to my knee, instead it angles inwards a little, thus when I bend my knee instead of the joint hinging two straight lines, it hinges on an acute outward angle* causing friction and swelling around knee. The tight IT bands just pull the angle even more acute so they don't help. He prescribed physical therapy to help strengthen the muscles around my knee so that I pull the angle to be less acute and an anti-inflammatory to help with the current pain. And that was it. The fear from earlier in the week was replaced with a determination to do whatever I can to prevent this from happening again and to get back to the running. I think I'll still pursue the swimming too because cross training is probably a good idea anyway. Though maybe I'll start tomorrow because today I'm exhausted from all the emotion.
Dublin Marathon? I'm still coming for you. Everyone running it with me (and you know who you are) I'm happy to say that you don't get out of it that easily!