Needles and Knees

This post is an update on my Runner’s Knee. The dreaded ailment that has been plaguing me since October. I was doing really really well and by the time January came around I thought I might have it beat. Then I ran out of my tape and started to have a little flare-up. Then I went on a snowshoeing trek that turned out to be harder and longer than I wanted to attempt. Then I started doing orthopedic massage and I think that aggravated my IT band so much it made it worse. Bottom line: February pretty much sucked for my knees. Lots of pain. Lots of tears. Lots of feelings of hopelessness.

But I think I might be turning a corner. (knock on wood) Despite a recent flare up (last week), my knees have been ok. As of today, Monday, they are tight but not in pain…if that makes sense.


Treatment #1 – I went to the acupuncture clinic for the first time. The guy has been doing it for 30 years, was a teacher at a local Chinese Medicine school and is from China. He seemed very competent and nice enough. I did kind of feel like he was judgmental of “traditional” medicine. He made several comments about how I turn to pills for my ailments (i.e. insomnia and acne). I found that kind of annoying. I wanted to say, listen buddy–I’ve been suffering from insomnia for YEARS and if I didn’t take a pill to sleep on occasion to reset my body I’d probably be a mess and unable to function. So that was kind of a turn off.

Despite that, the session was good. I fell dead asleep during the 45 minute session. It was awesome. Did it fix my insomnia? No. My knees? Not sure. I started feeling better around that time but I don’t know if it’s the acupuncture, taking a few extra rest days off, or just my knees healing.


Treatment #2 – The second session was just okay. I couldn’t relax. I felt anxious and uncomfortable. I couldn’t shut my brain off and when I did start to relax my equilibrium was really off. I felt like the table I was laying on was sideways and I was trying to hang on to the table without sliding off. It was the weirdest sensation and hard to describe.

Treatment #3 – This was a good but WEIRD session. I was able to relax despite the fact that I was having some nerve pain when he first put the needles in. Usually they don’t hurt. The weird thing was that my body was twitchy for the entire 45 minute session.

I fell asleep almost immediately, but not a deep sleep–it was a half in this world, half in another world kind of sleep. And I would wake up about every 5-10 minutes because I’d twitch. First it was my left arm. Then my right leg. Then my left leg. Then my right arm. And so on. Kind of like that feeling when you feel like you’re falling and then your body jerks away? Like that. It was odd and I asked about it afterward. He said it was nothing and sometimes it just happens.

Treatment #4 – I wasn’t able to relax and fall asleep but I think the session helped my insomnia. Leading up to this treatment I hadn’t slept well in over a week, struggling badly with insomnia. That night I slept so hard and woke up feeling like a million bucks. This last for about 3 nights–GREAT sleep! Then the insomnia returned, but I usually have bad insomnia on Sunday nights…

One of the unpleasant things about this session was that I had nerve issues the entire time. Usually it doesn’t hurt and I can barely even feel the fact that I have a dozen needles in my body. This time I felt every single one and it was shocking nerve pain on several of them! I have no idea where this sudden sensitivity came from. It was unpleasant.

Treatment #5 – I saw a different acupuncturist because my guy was on vacation. It went well and I had no issues.

Treatment #6 – This was not a great session. I had a lot of nerve discomfort when he put the needles in. While acupuncture doesn’t usually hurt, it can sometimes be a little sting and I tend to clench up in anticipation. This particular session I had an unusual reaction to one needle. He left the room and I was trying to relax when the one in my ankle started to burn. It was excruciating. It was getting worse and worse and I couldn’t take it. I called the doctor back in and to his credit, he was there in seconds and took it out. I don’t know what happened but it was awful!!



My knees have been feeling a little better. I had almost a month of NO PAIN! It was AWESOME. I started noticing that I wasn’t in pain and then I noticed that I could run several blocks for the bus in the morning with no pain. I also stopped taping my knees. The last time I took time off from taping (in January) I had a horrible flare-up of knee pain. This time was different. That gave me hope.

I don’t know if taking some extra rest days, or going easy on the lower body exercises, or acupuncture is what worked. I’m not picky. Whatever is alleviating the pain is good by me. I’ve also stopped taking Advil.

I bought a patella strap and I’ve used it a little bit. I have found that I didn’t need it that often in the last month or so. I don’t know if it’s the acupuncture, taking a break from most cardio, not taping or really focusing on strengthening my glutes…but something is working. I am so happy!

I waited a few weeks before getting back to running. I wanted to go slow. It didn’t really go as planned.

Run #1 – Was able to run on the treadmill for half a mile but it wasn’t comfortable at all.

Run #2 – Didn’t happen.

Bike Ride #1 – It was a short jaunt to and from the gym but it went GREAT! It was about 5 miles total. I had no issues during or after the ride. It made me feel confident.

Bike Ride #2 – About a week later I did a half-way to work commute. Round trip it was about 11 miles. I had no issues during the ride or after. I felt really good and was happy. Sadly, a few days later I had another knee flare-up. 🙁

Now What?

I’m not sure where I go from here. Tomorrow’s post will give an idea. Stay tuned.

QUESTION: Have you seen results from acupuncture?

Coping With An Injury

It’s funny…I was going through my draft posts to see what I had (there are so many posts I’ve started and never finished!) and came across this one. I started writing it months ago…months ago when I was feeling SO GOOD about my body and the idea of injuries weren’t something I was even thinking about. I was in a good place to write the post because I wasn’t dealing with an injury, I had clarity and no emotional response to what I was writing. It’s ironic that I stumbled onto this with my current situation. I wanted to share it anyway, because I think it addresses a lot of things.

Injuries are a part of life and they really suck when you’re an athlete. As athletes we put more pressure on ourselves and are less inclined to give our bodies a chance to rest when we hurt. We’re stubborn creatures and we’re positive that we can “work through it.” Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

This post is about how to cope with injuries that set us back. Any injury can set you back but for this post I’ll be specifically referring to the running injuries I’ve had and how I learned to cope. You can also read this excellent guest post: 8 Mistakes I Made While Injured.

I’ve had to start over several times, and I wrote a post specifically about the times I’ve started over in my journey toward health. In terms of injuries, I’ve had the not-so-serious like pulled muscles that had me hobbling for a week and I’ve also had more serious ones that set me back a long time.

I’m working hard to rehab from the IT Band issues I’ve had and I’m slowly getting my running legs back. For two years now I’ve been working on strengthening my body’s weak areas to prevent further injuries as I start to run again.


How to Cope With An Injury

1. Go To Your Doctor.

I see this mistake made all the time. I see it on Twitter, Facebook, blogs…runners especially are horrible at taking it easy and going to the doctor at the first signs of injury. I read these runners talking themselves out of being injured, or running through it (and hurting more).  I also see people using Google and Twitter to self-diagnose and self-treat. Really? Just go to the doctor!!! Then you’ll know for sure and have a good chance at healing.

Trust me, as an injured runner I made the mistake too, but that doesn’t mean you have to make the same mistakes. Delaying the inevitable and living in denial will just prolong the injury and the break from the activity.

If you’re really in tune with your body, you can tell immediately between a “normal” running pain and an “I’m injured” running pain.

2. R.I.C.E.

RICE isn’t just for sprains and strains. It’s just plain common sense. An injury is the body’s way of saying we pushed it too far, too soon, too hard. It wants to rest.

Rest: This means avoiding activities that cause your body pain.

Ice: Ice is your friend. You should be icing the injured area  20 minutes every few hours for those first few days to help with any inflammation or swelling.

Compression: ACE bandages are good for relieving some pain and discomfort from a swelling injury, and it also adds some stability if the injury is in your lower body. Another good one is compression socks. I LOVE these things. I have a pair of medical compression socks from when I had surgery on my ankle (it was used to prevent blood clots after my surgery) and the socks are amazing, They feel so good.

Elevation: The general rule in elevating is to raise the body part higher than your heart. If it’s your leg, sleep with a pillow under your leg to elevate it.

3. Cross Train.

If you can do another activity while you’re healing, do it. Not only will it make you feel better to still be getting some physical activity in, but you’ll keep your body strong. If your running injury is in your legs, try swimming or cycling. But only if it doesn’t hurt!

When I had to take 6 weeks off after my IT Band injury I started weight lifting. That was nearly two years ago now and it was one of the best things I ever did for myself. I wish I had done it sooner!

4. Take Care of Your Brain.

Depression is common with injuries. When our bodies are hurting, our spirits sink and despair is a normal feeling. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel hopeless–like we’ll never be “normal” again. Depending on the length of the rehab, the sadness can wear us down. The trick is to not let that happen. It’s okay to wallow for a little bit, but give it a time frame. Give it a week to wallow and feel sorrow for yourself, and then move on.

When I had to take a break from running I was a bit bitter. I stopped reading most of the running blogs I followed and loved because every time I read their race recaps I wanted to cry. I went from bitter to sad to angry that “everyone else” could run without injury and I was hobbling around with a bum knee. It sucked.  I skipped posts about half marathon trainings, I avoided the conversations about running with everyone. I knew friends and family were concerned but I just couldn’t talk about it so I changed the subject away from running.

Stay positive the best that you can.


5. Try Alternative Therapies.

There are a lot of alternative therapies out there that you can try in lieu of, or in addition to, traditional physical therapy. Acupuncture works for a lot of people. I’ve had mixed results from it. I had a few negative experiences with acupuncture, and then some really great experiences that worked. Give it a try.

TENS devices can also help. It’s weird at first, but feels fantastic!

Massage therapy is amazing and if you can afford frequent massages and sports massages, do it! If you can’t afford it, try Groupon deals for massage places.

6. Strengthen Your Weak Spots.

If you’re injured, there’s a weakness in the body. If it’s shin splits, strengthen the shins and calf muscles. If it’s the IT Band, try strengthen the hips. If it’s Plantar Fascitiis, the calf muscles are too tight. Talk to your doctor, see a sports medicine doctor, or go to physical therapy to target and strengthen the weak areas to prevent more injury.

Your Turn

Have you had to work on this? Are you trying to avoid injuries, or working through them?