Sunday, February 21, 2010

Runner's Knee Cured - part 2

As I was saying in Part #1, my 20 year bout of "Runner's Knee" has been cured by a simple and obvious two-word solution.

But in order to fully appreciate the two word punchline, I must tell the joke first.

Below is a recounting of my 20+ year epic quest, enumerating the time, pain and money I have spent searching for a cure.

In search of a cure for Runner's Knee...

All the things I tried that did NOT work

Low mileage 1988-2001$0 Pain and sadness
Most of my life I was limited to running 3 miles, about 3 times a week. Any more than that hurt my knees too much, and never could I run two days in a row.
Cushioned shoes 1991-2009$1500+More pain
"Running causes impact forces of 1000 times your body weight with each step! Equivalent to a Hummer falling from outer space!". I was convinced that my knee problems were due to this unavoidable pounding that running puts on your legs. So I kept searching for ever softer, thicker shoes to cushion the blow. Didn't help.
TRUE Treadmill with S.O.F.T. suspension2001$4000Crippled
Based on the price only, this just had to work! Plus it said "SOFT" right on it, it couldn't possibly hurt my knees! After it was delivered I ran 6 miles on it, 3 days in a row. After the 3rd day, my knees had swollen up and I could barely walk.
CHO straps2002$50Cursing
This supposedly stabilizes the kneecap and keeps it tracking "correctly" These things would fall down every every two minutes, and i would have to stop running and readjust them. So I guess they way they worked was by keeping you from running very far.
Motion Control Shoes 2003$120OW!
I have flat feet. The "wet paper bag test" revealed two amorphous round blobs for my foot prints.
"You are an overpronater. That causes Runner's Knee", said the running store salesman as he sold me "motion control" shoes. When I tried to run in them, they felt like bricks strapped to my feet.
Clunk, "OW!", Clunk, "OW!"
Instead of my usual delayed, obtuse knee pain, this was sharp and immediate. I put these on the shelf after 5 miles.
Magnets2005$25Secured shopping list to fridge
OK, I didn't actually try magnets. But Shannon had a knee wrap that had an ice bag and magnets in it, and she said I should try it.
"Magnets? To cure knee pain? How stupid and unscientific that is!", I scoffed, reaching down to pull up my CHO straps.
POSE method2005$0Confusion
I had heard that this "POSE method" was a running cure-all. Makes you injury free, faster, smarter, better looking, etc. Something about landing on your forefoot instead of your heel, which no one on earth had ever done until this"Dr. Nicholas Romanov" discovered it in his crazy running lab.
Landing on my forefoot seemed simple enough, and I didn't understand why I would need to pay for books, videos, and classes to do it. So I tried it on my own for a few days.
Unfortunately, the result was that I was sprinting down the street and never made more than 100 yards. So I gave up. I figured if "POSE" really was a panacea then wouldn't more people be doing it?
Stretching2005Intense painStopped running for a year
I was next told that my runner's knee was caused by my tight hamstrings, so I stretched my them constantly and forcefully. Eventually I was flexible enough to put my palms on the floor. Convinced that this meant I was cured, I ran the Salem Lake 30K, bounding along with my new elongated stride.
Afterwards, however, both my knees filled with fluid, swelling like balloons. My hamstrings were so painfully inflamed I could not sit down. Thinking that I had done some permanent damage, I quit running, and sought medical attention...
Sports Medicine2005-2006$1000More pain and suffering
Went into Cary Orthopedic "sports medicine specialists". Surely, they would have the answers. The orthopedic surgeon evaluated me, and I swear, laughed out-loud when he saw how inflexible my hamstrings still were. I was diagnosed with "Bilateral Patellofemoral Syndrome"(or "Knee pain"), caused by weak quads and tight hamstrings. Prescribed physical therapy guided by a trained professional, I did copious amounts of leg strengthening and stretching exercises.
Resting2005-2006IncalculableGot worse
I quit running for an entire year while doing physical therapy. Despite all the stretching and strengthening, my knees never got any better and in fact seemed to get worse. And so did my hamstring pain. Both ached horribly just from sitting in chair. I was now convinced there was something horribly wrong with my knees, and I went back to the professionals...
Custom made orthotics2006$400Anger
The wizards at Cary Orthopedic made me some orthotics, custom molded to my feet. I was so happy, and couldn't wait for a run. I slapped them in and took off down the street... and stopped after 100 yards.
"The orthotics are so thick that my heels are coming out of my shoes. What do I do?", I asked the therapist. He scratched his head, "Gee, I never heard that before."
I had to buy yet another pair of shoes that would fit the orthotics. I tried again. It was bizarre to run in the orthotics. They immobilized my feet, preventing any motion, like running with my feet in casts.
Clunk, "OW!", Clunk, "OW!"
After 5 runs in them I put them with the motion control shoes, cho straps, and "body ball" which were piled on top of the treadmill.
Lateral release surgery2006$?Very close call
Desperate to start running again, I went back to the orthopedic surgeon. He said my "Q-angle" was off, and that my kneecap did not track properly. There was a surgery called "lateral release" which would cut a ligament to fix the problem. I went home to think about it, then came back a few days later to start the process. After stuck in the waiting room for 2 hours I got pissed and left. What a lucky break that turned out to be!
Second opinion2006$500Hallelujah
Went to another orthopedic surgeon to get a second opinion on the surgery, and he took an MRI of both knees. "There is nothing wrong with your knees. If you can stand the pain, go ahead and run."
Ice Bags2007$300Cold knees
I started running again, more than ever before. I still didn't know why my knees hurt, but if it wasn't causing permanent damage, I didn't really care. So I bought about a dozen fancy expensive cold packs and iced my knees all day, everyday. I even had some at work and wore them in my cubicle. I resigned myself to doing this for the rest of my life.
Bulk Ibuprofen 2007$15Horrible Auto-immune disease?
I also took handfuls of "Vitamin I" to keep the swelling down. Around this time I starting having some other strange, unexplained health problems (I won't bore you with details), which might have been due to long term use of the little brown pills. I don't touch this stuff anymore.

OK. That's about everything I tried that didn't work.
I'll finish up with what did work in the third and final installment
(Most of the photos above were stolen from the Internet, without permission from anyone.