What the heck happened to my knee?
October 11, 2010 7:58 AM   Subscribe

What the hell did I do to my knee and is foam rolling making things worse?

Backstory: Training for a marathon. Lately, my left knee has been bothering me a bit on my runs. While I was out on a run last Wednesday I developed a sharp pain in my left knee every time I took a step. The pain was worse enough that I couldn't run. The whole knee ached slightly but the sharp pain was focused on the outside of my knee a bit below the kneecap (5 o'clock or there abouts). It didn't hurt when I walked on the trail but it did bother me a bit walking down steep hills. The roads/trails I run on are generally pretty uneven.

I can't get a PT appointment until next week so I did a little research on my own and decided it was most likely IT Band Syndrome. I haven't been running since but I've been icing my knee, stretching my IT band and strengthening my hip abductors. I've also been foam rolling my IT band daily. The problem now is that while my knee doesn't hurt it is swollen, tight and "squishy"... if that makes sense. It just doesn't feel like things are moving like they should in my knee. Squatting with no wait (to pick something up, etc) is causing pain in the left knee which has never happened before. Is this common after the initial injury? Is something else going on here? By really working on my IT band issues am I worsening things in my knee?

Knee injuries are (luckily) new to me so I'm a bit lost.

Of course, I will address this with my PT next week but the problem is that I have a half-marathon this Saturday and would like to get things in order ASAP so I can at least finish it.
posted by Loto to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds like runner's knee to me, especially if it hurts descending hills/stairs. The foam roller is definitely good for ITBS, but I don't think it does a lick for runner's knee.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:07 AM on October 11, 2010

It sounds a lot like ITBS + something else to me.

I find that stretches work a lot better than foam rolling for me.
I like the stretch where you stand 6inches-1ft away from a wall, keep your feet stationary and then push the hip to the wall while pushing the torso the opposite way. That's helped me a ton and kept the pain pretty minimal to non-existence before\during\after.

Why don't you try to go to another PT or doctor if this marathon is something you want to do?
posted by zephyr_words at 8:41 AM on October 11, 2010

The "swollen, tight, and squishy" really sounds like runner's knee to me as well. Is there a kind of sensation that when you put your weight on just that one leg, it feels like it might give out a little bit?
posted by elizardbits at 8:48 AM on October 11, 2010

Response by poster: No stability issues with the injured leg versus the healthy one. I have noticed that the knee is popping more than it used to but I feel like that is because it is swollen and not because of the injury.

Also, the pain while squatting only occurs if the knee travels forward. In a squat where my shins stay vertical I feel no knee pain. Not sure if that means anything but I figure I'd throw it in.

As for finding a new PT... I'd really like to avoid that if possible, I trust my current PT and am not looking forward to vetting a new one just for this.
posted by Loto at 8:57 AM on October 11, 2010

Yeah, running 13 miles on a "squishy" is probably not the best idea. (lots of running experience behind me here...) That said, foam rolling can't hurt you, so keep doing that. Also, ice the heck out of it. As much as possible! I love the ice massage- get a bunch of dixie cups, and fill them with water- put them in the freezer. Take out a cup, peel back the paper, and massage the knee (or whatever part hurts) with the ice as it melts. If you can ice while doing a task, or watching TV, or whatever, do it!

You should call the race office, and explain that you are injured. They will often hook you up with a voucher for next year, another race in the series, etc. You could also sweeten the pot by offering to be a course marshall, help with parking ,etc.
posted by rockindata at 9:07 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had ITBS as a cross country runner in high school, and kept running on symptoms similar to yours. Eventually developed a bursitis (cyst) behind the kneecap, which had similar symptoms to what you describe. Kept running after that, and eventually my knee would lock up on me after running less than a mile. Took me months to get over it, and I eventually screwed up my knee so bad that it still isn't right today. So hold off on that half-marathon, roll your it band like it owes you money, double check that you're wearing the right shoes, and remember that your goal is the marathon, not the half-marathon.
posted by wayofthedodo at 10:06 AM on October 11, 2010

Not a PT, just a runner. I'm with zephyr_words, sounds like IT band, plus something else. I've got IT band issues myself, and have found that a combo of rolling and stretching has gotten me the best results. I now do this after every run. Besides the stretch that zephyr_words describes, my favorite for the IT band is a (yoga) half pigeon pose; gravity helps with the stretch and I can just sink into it for a couple of minutes on each leg.

I don't know how often you race, but I'd skip the half and see your regular PT next week -- rehabbing an IT band isn't an afternoon project. Also, you've got the other symptom to take care of as well.
posted by kovacs at 10:50 AM on October 11, 2010

Yup, Nthing ITBS. I've been felled by it twice, once while actually running a marathon (geez that sucked) and then again while training. Sadly, it is a stubborn, painful injury that doesn't go away quickly. I was out about a month either time and had to come back slowly. I RICEd the crap out of it, but I think that was more about giving my hyperactive runner's brain something to do while I couldn't run than actually rehabilitating the injury. Rest is the only way to make it better.

Sorry to hear about it, and I wish you a quick recovery!
posted by hollisimo at 10:57 AM on October 11, 2010

Response by poster: Good news, everyone! I managed to get my appointment moved to this Thursday.

All this advice has been excellent. I was leaning towards the ITBS diagnosis myself but since this is new to me your opinions have been helpful. I've been hitting both legs hard with the foam roller/lacrosse ball, ice, Ibuprofen and compression. It seems like some of the swelling may have had to do with working at a standing desk all day. I'm sitting at work with my leg elevated currently which also seems to help.

Not sure what is going to happen with the race yet but that is up to the PT at this point. Frustrating, but as wayofthedodo said the marathon is my goal, not the half.
posted by Loto at 8:58 AM on October 12, 2010

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