Knee Pain from Running

Posted On: January 6, 2021

You have been running to stay in shape since the pandemic started. You used to work out regularly in the gym but because of the pandemic you didn’t feel comfortable in the confines of the gym. So you pulled out your running shoes and off you went.

At first it wasn’t easy. You barely make a mile. Too many late nights at the office and a diet that had been less than ideal. By late summer you begin hitting your stride. You can knock off five miles and barely break a sweat.

As the weather got colder you switch to a treadmill.  Then, after about a month, your left knee starts hurting. At first you try to run through the pain, but that only makes it worse. Advil helps, but it isn’t a cure.

The pain persists and finally you decide to see an orthopedic surgeon. He takes x-rays and reports that you have a little narrowing of the medial joint space in your knee and some early bone spurs. He suggests a cortisone shot. You get the shot and it helps for about a week. You go back and get another shot, which lasts about the same amount of time. This time the surgeon sends you for an MRI.

He calls to tell you that you have a degenerative medial meniscus which has torn. You ask, “Does this mean surgery?” He answers, “Arthroscopic surgery doesn’t work as well in middle aged individuals. I want you to try physical therapy.” “Physical therapy?” You ask. “Yes, physical therapy.”

You tell your wife. She smiles and says she will ask her friends about physical therapists in the area. She puts it out there on social media. She gets a bunch of responses. She even goes on line and checks out reviews. Within a day she has found you a place and you make the appointment.

You go in for your evaluation. At first youterapist asks a lot of questions. Where does it hurt? How bad is the pain? Has anything helped relieve the pain? What are your goals? Then the exam starts. The therapist checks your posture and examines your feet while standing. He has you balance on one leg. He asks you to do a single limb semi-squat. He then measures the lengths and strengths of various muscles in your legs.

Finally he inspects your running shoes, twisting and turning each one, and has you run on the treadmill while recording your gait with an I-pad.

After his work up he explains, “You have some biomechanic faults and muscular imbalances that will need to be addressed. Your feet over pronate and your running shoes don’t give you the support you need. You also have a weak left hip which contributes to your problem. You are going to have to get more stable running shoes and come in for therapy.”

You do as he says. The worst part is having to ride the stationary bike at home instead of running, followed by using the foam roller to loosen up your IT band. After two months of stretching and strengthening at home, and going in for therapy, you start with a walk-run combination on the treadmill. Over the next month, as you continue your exercise, you ramp up your running.

By the end of your therapy, you are running again and you have a great cross-training program that involves stretching, strengthening, and balancing. You ask the therapist, “What about the tear in my meniscus?  Has it healed?” “No,” he answers. “We have just corrected your mechanics and muscular imbalances so that your damaged meniscus is not so stressed when you go running.”

That works for you because, in the end, you are just happy to be running again.



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