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I am a female 5'2" weigh 105 lbs. Am a new runner since July mostly on treadmill and have gradually built up to 3 miles, 3 times a week (no setting records here)! and now in the past month have experienced increasing knee pain in BOTH knees. Changed running shoes (ASICS 11) am now icing knees after run (which does help some) and finally decided to go see a physical therapist who is basically telling me "it's just a matter of time before I become an ex-runner"! He has given me a few exercises to work on for quads and glutes, but that's it. I'm definitely NOT ready to throw in the towel after coming this far from hating running to now really enjoying it! I'm thinking of changing my doctor before changing my sport! Any Suggestions?
I recall a saying......I think it comes out of the international political relations world: Trust but verify.
To a certain extent that is an oxymoron. If you trust it it doesn't need to be verified - theoretically. When it comes to medical professionals and running I think that phrase works pretty well. Listen to their input. They've spent more time after one class studying something officially than I ever have. Take thier direction with a grain of salt. Research and check with other medical professionals and see if you end up agreeing with that.
The bottom line is I've had doctors, etc. be flat out wrong. And if you're working with someone who doesn't know runners and running it can be even more important to verify. Fifteen years ago my family doc at the time told me I had to stop running. He said my body wasn't made for it. I did some research, got some good shoes, started running with no pain, and fired my doctor.
"Kick off your high heel sneakers, it's party time."
-- From the song FM by Steely Dan
If your PT is telling you "it's just a matter of time before you become an ex-runner" then it's time to find a new PT - as soon as possible. Find a PT or MD who specializes in taking care of runners and keeping them running. There are many biomechanical causes of knee pain and the vast majority are treatable - if they're diagnosed properly. If I can use myself as an example, I had recurrent medial knee injuries for 12 years - about once every other year - and several different MD's could only treat them in the short term - none of them solved the underlying problems. Finally I went to a sports medicine orthopedist who did two things none of the others had done - he actually watched me run up and down the hall, and he x-rayed my knees. He found that (1) I was overpronating significantly in my neutral-cushioned shoes and (2) my kneecaps were out of alignment - a congenital problem. To make a long story short, he and two really good PT's in his office got the problems solved and my knees have been infinitely better since then. That was 15 years ago and I'm still running.
@ 5K: Ontario Mills 5K, Ontario, CA, 25:17
@ 10K: (coming soon)
I wholeheartedly agree with the other posters about finding another doctor / medical professional!
Also, you might want to consider being professionally fitted for shoes - reputable running stores (don't go to a big chain, you want a specialty store) will watch you run when fitting you, will identify pronation / supination (sp?) and will recommend shoes that best suit your running style... and in turn may well help with your knee pain (not to mention being WAY more comfortable to wear!!) You may pay a few $$ more than at the big chains, but its absolutely worth it.
I agree that you need to find a new PT. I am a physiotherapist myself (and a runner). What you are describing sounds like patellofemoral syndrome which is one of THE most common conditions I treat. I haven't yet told anyone that their days as a runner are numbered. The approach is multi-faceted however. You need to look at your shoes and get this done by a professional podiatrist who should be able to video you running in your shoes and see if you over pronate. If so - they may prescribe orthotics. Your PT should give you a programme designed to strengthen where you are likely to be weak (usually quads, butt, calf muscles) and stretch where you are tight (usually iliotibial band, hip flexors). Some deep tissue massage in to your iliotibial band will help, as well as mobilisation to your kneecap. Taping of your kneecap also helps to relieve pain while you are building up your muscle strength. You should be able to find more of this kind of stuff on the net. Good luck. Let me know if you need anymore help.
Thank you for everyone's responses! I actually decided to go ahead and run my first 5K on Saturday. Knees felt great during the run, but not so good 24 hours later or today. Ice and elevation helps, but I don't want to cause any permanent damage. I feel more encouraged by everyone's comments and will definitely follow-up with suggestions. In the mean time.....
A couple of specific questions if anyone would like to add:
Should I alternate running with strengthening exercises or just backoff running for a bit and concentrate on strengthening exercises?
How to tape up knees for added support?
How accurate is the wet foot on paper test, to see if you under or overpronate? I bought a flexible, cushion shoe after trying this, but now am not sure if I need a more stable shoe? My PT said I might NEVER find the right shoe! Ugh!
Any other suggestions would be great...thanks!
"...Should I alternate running with strengthening exercises or just backoff running for a bit and concentrate on strengthening exercises?"
I'd think that would depend on how consistent the pain is. You may have to play it by ear. Try alternating running days with crosstraining/strengthening days for a while - in other words, run every other day. If your knees respond well to that, you can try running 4 or 5 days/week if you're so inclined. If the knee pain persists, then start backing off, focus on strengthening (especially quads) and allow the injury to heal. Then start adding running days back slowly.
"How to tape up knees for added support?"
McConnell type taping to stabilize the kneecap can be helpful for tracking problems. A good PT can teach it quickly; that's how I learned to do it. Or you can Google it, and look on YouTube for videos on how to do the taping. For maintenance I usually just tape under the kneecap - the rough equivalent of a Cho-Pat strap, except it doesn't go all the way around the leg (that is an advantage - it's guaranteed to fit). Once your knee problems are under control, taping may no longer be necessary for you. I find that it does provide just enough support to keep my knees from backsliding.
"How accurate is the wet foot on paper test, to see if you under or overpronate?"
The wet foot test shows arch height, which usually correlates with one's tendency (or lack thereof) to overpronate or underpronate. But not always! I have normal arches - a normal wet test - but I still overpronate significantly
"I bought a flexible, cushion shoe after trying this, but now am not sure if I need a more stable shoe? My PT said I might NEVER find the right shoe! ..."
All the more reason to find a new PT as soon as possible.
@ 5K: Ontario Mills 5K, Ontario, CA, 25:17
@ 10K: (coming soon)