Yesterday was my fourth visit to physical therapy for my dodgy knee, which means I’m halfway through my prescribed 8 visits. So, how’s it going and how’s it looking?
After the preliminary exam of my knee during my first visit, the physio concluded that my knee problems are stemming from a particularly ridiculous tightness in my quads, especially the vastus lateralis (the muscle at the outer thigh), which plays the important role of extending and stabilizing the knee:
According to the physio, the tightness in this muscle is putting extra strain on my knee when I run, hence the pain and general dodginess. (My hamstrings and calves were wicked tight too, but that was not a surprise to me… they’re always tight.) She massaged the muscle a little, then showed me how to do a few exercises for it – leg lifts and clam shells, mainly.
My second appointment started with a warmup on an exercise bike, during which the physio was showing the high school intern who was observing my session a video about runner’s knee. I overheard a part of it that explained the different causes of runner’s knee, and the causes I heard were tight quads (yup), dodgy ankles (hang on…), and back issues. We all know I have dodgy ankles, and so I mentioned that to the physio who said my chronically crap ankles may very well have also played a role in my knee problems. (Cheers, guys.)
The back part was interesting too… I wrenched something in my lower back at the Old Wethersfield 10K last August, and the pain has kept popping up at different times ever since. In fact, after the warmup, the physio was showing me some additional stretches to add to my post-run routine, and one of them (the one that’s supposed to stretch my tight outer-quad/IT band) made that spot in my back start hurting:
She had me stop the stretch immediately, and put me on the treatment table to stretch me herself. It was a little awkward, as she had to hold my bum in place while she stretched my right leg, but it made my leg feel better. What didn’t make my leg feel better, however, was when she decided to do what I had been hoping I wouldn’t be subjected to… muscle scraping. Except my physio called it “soft tissue massage,” which makes me think of nice, plush, lotiony Kleenex and not excruciating pain. She wheeled a little tray over to the table with what looked like torture devices on it:
She used tools similar to the second from the left and the second from the right, and holy ouch, Batman. I was clutching the sides of the table and trying to remember to breathe without looking too much like I was going to cry, since the high school intern was watching me closely. I could feel (and see!) the physio working over huge knots in my thigh, so clearly they need to be worked out, but ouch Charlie!! When she finally finished torturing me, she taped up my knee with some KT tape and sent me on my way. The next morning Drew noticed bruises on my leg from my little “soft tissue massage:”
While the bruises weren’t nice, the KT tape was actually pretty awesome. I had been rocking a patella strap or ace bandage pretty much ever since I realized my knee was hurt, but once the tape was on I didn’t feel like I needed to anymore – the tape was holding my kneecap nice and tight. Yay for no more strange knee bulges under my jeans!
So then, right, the third session. More exercise bike warmups, followed by doing what the exercise technician called a “four-way hip exercise” with the help of a giant gym machine. They strap my ankle to a pulley attached to some weights, then I do forward and backward standing leg lift things (I have no idea how to describe these) and then standing hip abduction and adduction… kind of like this:
Basically, I stand there and move my leg in four different directions while it’s attached to weights. Then I did some monster walks, knee bend things (my knees point in, which was something the injury prevention clinic was trying to correct on me too, and these exercises are meant to train them to stop doing that), and hamstring curls like so:
My back was still hurting a bit, so the physio had me lay on the exam table and move my legs around in different ways before feeling my hips. Turns out, my right pelvis was tilting forward, making my right leg slightly longer and putting everything out of whack. This would explain my back pain, and possibly other pains I’ve been feeling in my right leg! The physio said that a stronger core would help this and led me through a few exercises before giving me a “gentle” massage with The Stick (since she didn’t want to scrape over my bruises, thankfully) and retaping my knee.
Yesterday was my 4th PT session, and it was pretty much par for the course. Bike warmup, standing hip 4-way thingamabob, steps, hamstring curls, monster walks, a lot of stretching, and some core work. One thing about this PT… this is the first time I feel like I’m getting a workout while rehabbing, and I really appreciate that since I haven’t been exactly active while resting my knee! One happy thing that happened yesterday too is that when she examined my legs and pelvis situation, everything seemed to be back in alignment (hooray!) and my back no longer hurts (more hooray!).
Even better news… I get to attempt running again at my next appointment! Huzzah! Tomorrow will mark 3 weeks since I last ran (at the Kick in For Kids race) and I’m dying to get back out there. (Although, my allergies have been attacking at about 900% their normal rate, so I’m not sure how much I’d be enjoying running right now anyway. Thanks a lot, pollen.)
So. To sum up: my body is kind of a mess. (I knew this, and really should have been doing more of the exercises the injury prevention clinic people gave me… I blame my freak rib injury, which really threw me off. I was doing so well before that sidelined me! Boo ribs.) I need to work on strengthening my core, which will help keep my pelvis and legs and everything else in line. I also need to stretch more. Like, a lot more.
I’ve made a goal to try to do planks every day, and I downloaded a new app on the recommendation of Rae (thanks Rae!) which sets up 30-day challenges for you. I started the plank one and have already fallen off the challenge after one day (seriously… I’m ridiculous) but I plan to get back on starting today. Drew and I are also investigating yoga classes at our gym, which should help with the stretching situation. Here’s hoping my running experiment on Tuesday goes well so that I can get back on the proverbial horse!
What’s your favorite kind of core work?
Any tips for getting in the habit of stretching more?
I need all the help I can get with this one!
Anyone else’s allergies going absolutely crazy this spring??