October 26th, 2014. The day that’s been plaguing me for more than 9 months now. That was the day I fractured my knee cap. That was my initial injury. I healed fully and got back to running in Janiary 2015. However, I ramped up my speed and mileage too quickly and ended up producing bone marrow edema by the end of the month. Since then I’ve been battling with daily pain and trying to heal this pesky injury in every way possible.
Well, I can finally say I feel back to normal. And by normal I mean that I can move freely without pain now….including RUNNING. I truly didn’t think I’d be able to say that ever again because the second injury seemed chronic and unending. Once I got my head on straight and got committed to recovery though, I finally started to see progress and a light at the end of the tunnel.
For a few months before I went away earlier this summer, I was able to do most things without pain…walking, squatting, jumping, using cardio machines. But running and lunging still alluded me. It wasn’t completely unbearable pain, but enough discomfort to make me know I was helping the injury by pushing through it. I honestly felt like these pains would be a life long affliction and that they were just something I’d have to get used to. Luckily, I didn’t let that defeatist attitude sink too far in and I kept working daily to make changes.
Now that I finally feel ‘uninjured’, I want to share the 4 things that really made the difference in my healing. I will preface this by saying that I prolonged my recovery process a lot by working out through pain and pushing past limits I should not have. I DO NOT recommend that and if you’re ever injured, be smarter than me and don’t wait to implement these important tips for recovery.
This is what really made the difference. I never had done PT before so I didn’t really know what to expect. I assumed it would be all about stretching and strengthening my knee, but what I found was that the main focus was on strengthening the muscles around that area. Namely my hips, quads, and hamstrings. I came in incredibly stiff (still not very flexible), with hardly any range of motion, and with numerous muscle imbalances from not being able to use my left leg for so long. My PT basically said I was an injury waiting to happen. She put me on a progressive program that added new stretches and strengthening exercises to build and lengthen my muscles. In addition, when I actually went in for PT (twice a week), I received Astym treatment on and around my knee to break up scar tissue. I LOVED getting this done. Yes, it was painful and caused bruising, but it was my greatest measure of the progress I was making. In the beginning you could audibly hear the scar tissue under my skin and how prominent it was. By my last session, the tissue was so much smoother and more pliable. In total I went for 12 sessions of PT as well as doing the prescribed exercises everyday on my own. I still continue to do the exercises everyday and I still notice gains in my strength. For example, single leg squats I could hardly do at the beginning, now are a lot easier and I can actually perform them without compensations. I can’t go all the way down to the floor yet, but I’m getting closer each day. Would you all be interested in a tutorial on some of my daily exercises?
Rest and Resistance
They seem opposite right? What I mean is resting my leg was crucial healing my bone marrow edema. Initially I tried to do things my way and exercise through the pain. Certain activities were not as painful as running so I thought that they’d be okay to do in the meantime. That mindset only prolonged my recovery and it wasn’t until I fully backed off from all cardio for a few weeks that my knee was able to heal. So pure rest and RESISTING the urge to do movement that didn’t necessarily hurt (but also didn’t HELP my knee) was necessary. It was tough mentally and physically, but so worth it now that I can start running again PAIN FREE. I honestly thought I’d never be able to say that and even now I am worried every time I go run that I’ll start getting a twinge of pain. Needless to say, I am being very conservative with my training and taking things sloooow. No more rushing back into speed and distance like I did at the beginning of the year to cause this injury.
Joint Health Supplements
Initially when I re-injured my knee, I was prescribed some pretty heavy painkillers because my body was not responding to normal Ibuprofen. I am not a fan of taking medication at all and after about a month of being on the meds, I decided I was going to wean myself off of them and try to manage the pain on my own. I was suffering from severe inflammation under my kneecap and nothing was really bringing it down. I decided to do a little research on my own about natural ways to reduce inflammation. I quickly learned I was mostly eating an anti-inflammatory diet anyways, but I also stumbled upon a supplement called Zyflamend (I discussed my experience with Zyflamend extensively here). In short, Zyflamend is a mixture of rare herbs and spices (including things like turmeric) that have been found to reduce inflammation in the body. I was skeptical but I decided to take it and after about a month on the supplement I really could tell a difference. My pain was much less noticeable and my stiffness had diminished. In addition, I also started taking Glucosamine Chondroitin. These two are a commonly used dietary supplement for joint health and are said to relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis and offer anti-inflammatory benefits. With this, I don’t really know how much they helped, but I figured my joints could use all the help they could get!
Foam Rolling and Elevation
I am a devout foam roller now. Along with my PT exercises, I do at least one session of foam rolling everyday. I’ve always been a fan of foam rolling but since I’ve started doing it regularly, I’ve noticed less stiffness and tightness in my muscles, quicker recovery after workouts, more flexibility, and less sore muscles.
I do it at least twice a day for 5-10 minutes and immediately feel a release in the fascia of my muscles. One of the number one things I learned when studying for my PT certification was how important foam rolling is at every level of fitness. I surely will never underestimates it’s healing properties ever again.
These four things combined are what I attribute my healing to. Each one was instrumental in my recovery and once I got on board with what I really needed to do, things started improve. For any of you with persistent injuries or pain, do not give up hope. Even if doctors tell you you’ll be dealing with something forever. The body is amazing and is capable of so much when we give it a little TLC. Let go of your ‘shoulds’ and ‘have-tos’, commit yourself fully to healing, and big changes will happen. It doesn’t happen overnight, but you will notice progress.
Have you ever dealt with a serious injury?
What did your injury prevent you from being able to do?
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