Something very significant has been happening over the last 3 days, since I saw my GP on Fri 02 Dec and then had an x-ray done on the knee later that day. I believe these developments have clarified what’s been going on with the knee apparently not responding. Here are the details:
Fri 02 Dec
After seeing my GP, I stopped by the MOTI store to see whether they had received the delivery of the long, smooth foam roller I had needed, to replace the one I deliberately left on the other end of my recent trip away. In the meantime, since last Monday 28 Nov, I had been using the shorter, more “advanced” roller, which is harder and has an uneven surface that is said to give a deeper roll. MOTI did have their delivery, so I bought the smooth one.
I had indeed found that the advanced roller was working deeper into my various muscles. However, as I am so bony, I was not as keen on it as the smooth one, and so I returned to using that one for my late afternoon roll on this Friday 02 Dec. Even so, by the end of this day, I noticed that an area on the affected leg’s IT band below the knee joint, had started to colour up a little, and I could also feel some soreness there, as if from bruising. I thought this might be due to the more advanced roller having reached something deeper, and for now decided to keep an eye on this area over the next few days.
Sat 03 Dec
Today’s plans included travelling out of town to visit friends for the day, and in the evening to attend a stage play that one of them was performing in. This would involve taking a 90-minute car trip, and I was to stay overnight with them and return on the next day, Sunday 04 Dec.
When I got up on this Saturday and prepared for my usual early morning foam roll and daily set of exercises, I noticed that the spot on the IT band of the affected leg had coloured up more, and there was more localised soreness there. As I moved around before exercising and rolling, I could feel that localised soreness. I took the photo below, in which the bruising is circled, and blew that area up as in the 2nd picture:
I considered what might be going on, and put this together with experiences of having noticed something unusual at this spot on my left leg, in both the medium-term and the long-term past. I had been aware of it since well before I began running over 15 years so, perhaps going back a far as 20 or 25 years. Some leg movements would very occasionally result in a slight “twinge” coming from that spot. I never thought much about this over the years, as it didn’t get worse in any way or show any other symptoms, and there was never anything to see. I had put it down to perhaps being a potential varicose vein (I don’t have any of these that I know of, but there is some history of them in my family), or just an anomaly of some kind. I certainly never had any injury there.
Once I started running in 2001, any instances of feeling this area give a twinge, seemed to become more and more rare, and over the last few years, I had not had it happen for some time.
The first time this spot came to my attention again recently, was when I started foam rolling a few weeks ago in late September. Each time I would roll out the IT band muscles below the affected left knee joint, as well as finding, at least to begin with, that there was significantly more muscle tightness in general in that part of the IT band set in comparison to the other leg, I also noticed that rolling over this specific spot seemed to highlight it again as being a little lumpy, in such a way that rolling would come up to it, then “jump” past it. Because I had known about it for many years and had more or less concluded that it must be some kind of aberration, I did not give it any specific extra attention when rolling.
Now that this spot had coloured up as if bruised, and was sore like a bruise, I began to realise that this might in fact be just another knot in my muscles. I thought that maybe using the more advanced roller for a few days had reached it, whereas the smoother one had not. I decided that for the time being, I would keep doing the lower leg IT band rolling with the more advanced roller, and use the smoother one for all the other rolling. With this in mind, I packed both rollers into my luggage for the car trip to visit my friends for the day.
As the time to take the 90-minute drive approached, I had also started to notice that even moving around in the house, I could feel this specific spot’s soreness a bit. I began to wonder whether this was simply a really deep knot, and it was finally working its way out. I decided that just before setting off on the drive, I would take my usual walk in a local park, and would pay special attention to how everything felt and behaved, in particular as I did a short, steep downwards sloping section that, even in the recent days before this, was still making me limp on the affected leg.
John had told me in one of our early sessions, that such a limp when doing a downward slope, is a sign that the IT band is tight and is affecting the knee joint. My GP had also pointed this out in my appointment with him, the day before this.
When I did the downward sloping section of my usual walk on this Saturday, there were two things different about it. The first was that I did not limp as much as in recent days. The second was that I could feel the localised soreness in the area of the IT band on that leg, where the bruising had appeared. Each step onto that left leg would “trigger” the soreness in the bruised area. There appeared to be a clear connection between these two areas.
By this time I was fairly convinced that a major shift of some kind might be underway. I kept an eye on how the knee was feeling for the rest of the day, both during the 90-minute drive, after arriving at my destination, and during and after sitting to watch my friend perform in the stage play that Saturday evening. In a further significant development, I noticed that the knee was no longer getting stiff at all, even after sitting for these prolonged periods. This was very different to how the knee had been behaving recently, even just a day or two before this.
As I slept that night, I tried my usual left side sleeping position, and although it did seem a bit better than recently – not giving as much pain to the affect left knee – I ended up settling in less comfortable alternative positions when on my left side, as recently. I am a light sleeper and turn over a lot, so am never in any one position for the whole night.
Sun 04 Dec 2016
I slept well and long and awoke very refreshed. My friends live in the countryside, and it was very quiet there.
The bruised area was still sore locally and was perhaps a bit more coloured up, and as I did my usual morning rolling and exercises – following breakfast in this instance – I could feel it. Right after exercising, we went out for a walk in the countryside. In all we covered around 4 miles or so, at first on roads, then on footpaths up into a forested area on a long hill, then along the top of the hill, then back onto roads for the rest of the walk. Once we got back onto the road, there was a long steep downwards section, as in the photo below. This was an ideal chance to check out how my usual limp was on the affected leg, as this slope was even steeper than the one from my usual walk near where I live, and much longer:
I could not detect any limping at all as I made my way down this section of the road. I could feel the sore bruised area a bit, but not as much as on the previous day, when I had done the short sloped section on my usual local walk.
I began to get a bit excited about these developments. It looks like I just had some really deep knotting in my left lower leg muscle, which happens to have been right on the IT band. Why this never bothered me for the first 14 years of running, I cannot say, but it could be that those muscle injuries up near the waist on that same left side – from earlier this year (see blog #02) – had contributed to giving me hip drop, and that, combined with this really deep, old knot, had given rise to my knee troubles.
That evening I drove back home, and as expected, when I arrived after the 90-minute drive and got out of the car, there was again no stiffness at all in the affected knee joint.
Immediately on arriving, I did another session of rolling. I have been finding that after any travelling – either as a driver or a passenger, in whatever form of transport – rolling is a great way to relax all the muscles of the lower body, and it also gives me a chance to check for any special areas of knotting or tension, etc. On this occasion there was nothing unusual, and the IT bands on both legs were more or less equal to each other, with the exception of the bruised area on the affected leg, which of course is still sore. I rolled it out anyway.
Right after this quick roll, I took my usual walk in a nearby park, partly to again test out what it was like to do that downward sloping section. I was not limping for it at all, and moreover, the bruised area was also no longer sore with each step I took on that leg. This was a further sign that the direction of travel of this old, deep knot, is outwards / towards it dissipating. Horray!
After the walk, I did my usual late afternoon / early evening rolling, stretching and exercises, which also felt very good. As you can tell, on this particular day, I ended up rolling quite a lot.
Part of my usual stretches at the moment is one called the “banana” stretch. To do this, stand side-on by a table or desk, cross the leg closest to the table/desk over the other one – across the ankles – and then bend the upper body towards the table / desk, while resting the arm nearest to it, on the table/desktop. This should stretch out various sets of muscles that run all the way up and down the side of the body.
Since I had been having the other muscle troubles going back to earlier on in the year (see blog #02), this banana stretch had been feeling very different when done on the affected left side, compared to how it felt on the right side, something I had been thinking was perhaps an indication that those other muscle problems had not fully healed up yet on the affected left side. I might have been imagining it, but it seemed that now, this felt more similar on both sides.
I decided I would go try playing some table tennis, as Sunday is one of the days I can play at one of my usual venues. When I arrived there, a league tournament was still underway from earlier in the day, which was running late. I opted to stay and wait for a chance to do some playing, and spent much of the next hour standing up, which felt good.
I was then able to play 2 stints of around 20 minutes, with a gap of about the same length of time between them. As well as not feeling any pain in the knee joint – even in the area on the outside of the joint where the more acute pain had sometimes been occurring – I seemed to be able to extend the leg more properly when going for shots that were a bit out of my reach. It’s not easy to put into words just what felt different, but my instincts were that this was all now going to settle down and heal up, finally.
I took a hot bath after getting home, then rolled, after which I applied some homeopathic Arnica cream to the bruised area, to help draw it out, and then took it easy on the couch. When I was ready to go to bed later, I had been lying on the couch for a while, something that previously, even just a few days ago, would have left the knee noticeably stiff when I would then get up off the couch. It was not stiff at all this time, when I got up.
Mon 05 Dec 2016
Today the knee has not been stiff or sore at all during the first part of the day, which is a major change from the days following me doing any amount of either running, jogging or playing table tennis, going back over 2 months. I have been sitting at my new chair at the computer since late this morning – getting up often as I usually do. Although there is still no stiffness or soreness when I get up, going downstairs does show that the affected left knee is still a bit weak. But I am certain this is partly from this new positive shift being such a recent development. Also I believe that when I take my usual walk again today, it will do the knee much further good. I hope to clean the house fairly thoroughly this afternoon, which will also be good exercise. The body seems to want activity right now, so I intend to comply.
Here is what the leg looks like today, after having applied the Arnica cream yesterday evening – it’s fairly similar to last Saturday, 2 days ago:
The best part of having been able to play table tennis yesterday without ending up really sore today, is that I am confident I can now very gradually begin to add some jogging into some of my walks, as well as playing table tennis again – and because I won’t be relying just on any running/jogging for significant exercise, I can take my time about getting back to doing my usual running distance of around 4 miles every 3 days.
I am now convinced that the reason the knee troubles have been lingering so long, following all the other changes we have made from my treatments and sessions with John, is that this one really deep area of muscle knotting, right on the IT band, has only now started to let go – as it happens, probably because for a few days, I have been using the more “advanced” roller, for the first time ever.
I don’t intend to be doing much running or jogging in terms of distance, until after we have had the results of the x-rays of the knee that were taken last Friday 02 Dec, following the appointment with my GP. That’s a precautionary measure which is easy to take and is sensible, given the severity of the troubles I have been having with this knee. My instincts are that the x-rays will not show anything amiss, but let’s wait and see.
I now have a couple of questions for John, in light of all these recent events:
- From recently having been doing the hip drop exercises to specifically target the gluteus medius, I have noticed that those muscles have been feeling identical to each other on each side of the body, both before, during and after each exercise. The only things that have felt different are some lingering pain / soreness to the vertical fascia (sp) muscle just below the waist, and to the nearby rib muscle around on the front of the torso, both on the affected left side of the body. My feeling is that, given the breakthrough events as in this blog #14, I should switch out some of those gluteus medius exercises, for others that would more directly target these other muscles instead, to help them heal up. Can John recommend any such exercises?
- Until I don’t get even any occasional pain in that waist area vertical fascia (sp) muscle any more, my instincts are that I should consider continuing to use some Kinetic Therapeutic (KT) tape on it, whenever I play table tennis or do any walking into which I am mixing any amount of jogging / running. However, it is still not entirely clear just what led to me ending up with the hip drop when planting the affected left leg while running etc. Is it possible that using the KT tape on that waist area for several months since early summer, resulted in the gluteus medius getting “lazy”, and led to the hip drop? If so, should I try and move towards full recovery of that vertical fascia (sp) muscle without the use of any KT tape on it? One reason I think there might be a connection between the KT tape and the hip drop as we filmed it in my earlier sessions, is that I believe that vertical fascia is in fact the upper extension of the same IT band muscle set, the one which ended up being overly tensed up, through whatever means. If so then their relationship is fairly direct. What does John recommend?
- Now that we seem to have achieved a breakthrough on the knee joint itself, my instincts are that I need to add in some further exercises to specifically add strength to the knees. I was impressed by the other exercises for runners as demonstrated by that runner from Portland Oregon in her website :http://carrotbowl.com/how-i-cured-my-runners-knee/
The exercises also followed her showing how to foam roll, from this video embedded in her site:
Does John think it would be a good idea for me to now begin adding some of these in? If not, does he have any other, perhaps more suitable ones he would recommend?