Knee injury running setbacks can be one of the greatest obstacles for middle to long distance runners.
There is not much one can do when injured. That being said, there are remedies.
Remember the process and think long-term.
Don’t let a short-term setback get the best of you.
The bottom line up front regarding knee injuries or any other area of the body is to find out what is causing the problem. Then, follow the fundamentals listed below to heal quicker and smarter.
If you have had to deal with a knee injury running long distance take time off to heal or cause you to give up, read on.
Causes, Symptoms and Treatments
I share my own experiences along with other expert studies and documentation to help you overcome setbacks in training.
We can only share with the world what works and what doesn’t
I have had three orthoscopic knee surgeries, all caused by small pieces of cartilage breaking off in my knee caps.
I have had two orthoscopic knee surgeries on my left knee and one on my right knee during my undergraduate studies.
My first surgery took place in 1996. I was a freshmen in college when a small piece of cartilage broke off my knee.
Soft vs Hard Surfaces
The probable cause of what happened to me is the same as others who have had to deal with an injury like this. Too much running on hard surfaces.
Lack of overall strength in the knee muscles.
I started running in 1992 and prior to that had never ran or ever thought I would be involved in the sport.
God brought me to this gift by way of my brother. Have you ever said to yourself
I wish I could hear what God wants for my life?
My brother talked me into coming out for the track team.
I had weak muscles around my knee that I never strengthened.
Are you making the same mistake? Have you considered a light weight training schedule?
Medical physicians term pieces of cartilage floating within the knee cap ‘floating bodies’ or ‘loose bodies’.
A Floating Body
Osteoarthritis occurs in people of all ages.
I started having knee problems four years into my running career.
We will discuss some remedies to help alleviate knee pain below.
A loose body can be a free-floating piece of bone or cartilage.
You can still run with a loose body and anyone who has had to deal with a knee injury like this will tell you the same.
You cannot run if the floating body moves in the wrong area of the knee.
Take Time Off
It will lock your knee up and you will feel immense pain.
There comes a point where running with this form of knee injury becomes dangerous and simply isn’t worth the risk.
Medical personnel term it a ‘locking of the knee’.
As long as it is in the right spot you can manage running with it. That being said, it all depends on where the piece of cartilage decides to lodge itself.
If it becomes too problematic the best remedy is to have surgery to remove the floating body out of your knee.
Causes Of Injuries
- Osteoarthritis – This is the medical term for degenerative joint disease and is caused by the common wear and tear of our joints. If the cartilage wears away from this it will cause bone on bone contact which can be very painful
- A torn piece of your cartilage (what happened with me)
- Inflammation of the knee or decreased amounts of blood called Avascular Necrosi
- Poor running surfaces such as pavement or concrete
Do you best to run on soft surfaces and not on concrete or paved roads.
A great alternative is either pool running (mentioned below), running on the treadmill or choosing to do some running on all-weather tracks where you have a softer surface to run on.
Treatments Of Injuries
- Light weight lifting. Dr. Roy Attman, a professor of Rhuematology at the University of California Los Angeles states that six times our weight goes through our knees every time we put our foot down. The muscles surround the knee absorb a lot of that shock, strengthening the muscles around the knee joint can be strengthened
- Pool running – The trick with pool running is that it takes all the pressure off the knee and mimics land running.
Additionally, you can get in the deep end of the pool and pool run.
Pool running is one of the best training methods you can utilize when injured, This is because you’re taking all of the repetitive stress off the joints
- Surgery – The least of my favorite remedies but sometimes there is simply no other choice to have the loose body removed by a licensed Physician.
What is positive about orthoscopic knee surgery is that it is a quick surgery. Additionally, you can recover quickly.
That being said, you also have to be extremely cautious on how you time your return to training. Physicians told me I should not run for four weeks
I waited the four weeks and didn’t run a step but I started back at soon as I was told I could.
What I didn’t do was light strengthening exercises and started back a month after the surgery. The result? I had another piece break off in my knee cap.
I took nearly two months off the second time to be safe and fortunately I have not had any problems since outside of small cases of Patellar Tendinitis
If you have ever dealt with or are currently handling a knee injury timing and patience is critical.
It was a very painful lesson for me to learn early on in my running career.
One of the common remedies I constantly used and still use when I am dealing with Patellar Tendonitis is heating my knee before I go out to run. Then, icing it when I get back.
Warming the knee will increase blood circulation and will relax the muscles. Furthermore, muscles that are cold are more likely prone to injury than those that are warmed.
I would take styrofoam cups and fill them up with water. Additionally, you can place them in your refrigerator and wait for them to freeze. Lastly, you can then use them to massage your muscles.
I did this in high school, all through college and continue to use this technique.
Patellar Tendinitis chronic condition where microscopic tears occur within the knee and thickening of the Patellar tendon which is connected to the Patellar bone (knee cap).
- Consider taking supplements such as Omega 3 fatty acids. These can be found in Fish Oil. Also, they have been found to be outstanding inflammatory agents that can help lower patellar and osteoarthritis pain.
- Eat more anti-inflammatory foods – swelling and inflammation are the causes of knee pain. Consider eating more foods that have anti-inflammatory capabilities such as garlic, onions, celery, pickles as well as nuts and fish.
- Ultrasound Therapy – I consistently used this when I was rehabilitating after my surgeries and continue to. Ultrasound gets deep into the muscle tissue and breaks up scar tissue around the knee.
Remedies Patellar Tendonitis
- Start utilizing frozen styrofoam cups filled with water to massage your knees after you run
- Warm the knee before you go out to run. A warm muscle will perform better and have a less likely chance to become injured then a cold muscle
- Rest -one of the most difficult of all remedies because we runners have a hard time taking time off.
Time away from the sport will allow your muscles, joints and tendons to rest from the accumulative stress we place on them.
We all need a break some times. Make use of that time off and enjoy it.
Always keep the pros and cons in mind.
You have to be wise and time your decisions so you set yourself up for success.
What would you rather have?
Take a few weeks off or risk worsening the injury by continuing to run and be out of the sport for a few months?
- Proper stretching – stretching the quadriceps, calf muscles and hamstrings will prevent the Patellar Tendonitis from continuing to flare up.
- Use a Chopat Strap – I started wearing one of these when I was in high school preparing for the cross country and track seasons. I have dealt with Patellar Tendonitis since I was 15 and from time to time still do at the age of 37.
Surgery is usually not needed for this form of knee injury unless the athlete gets an MRI and there is a clearly defined injury to the Patellar tendon.
The key take away from this article to emphasis patience in the face of knee injury running setbacks because we all get them occasionally as athletes.
They are not reason to give up but they can challenge your resolve and it takes looking at the bigger picture to not allow them to get the best of you.
Follow these fundamentals and remedies and you will bounce back and achieve excellence.
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