Kneaded Gnu Knees: The Path to Knee Injury & Recovery

by Heather

June 5th- 3 months, 4 days ago. {Update: almost 4 years ago now}. Three miles into the woods at Algonkian Regional Park. The dull pain that I’d felt in my knee on  my last few runs struck again- and struck hard. It didn’t take long for the pain to kick into high gear.

I knew I needed to stop running. But when you’re 3 miles into an out-and-back 6 mile course that lead you down a single path in the Virginia woods, where do you stop?

I quickly discovered it hurt more to walk than it did to run, so I kept running. {Although at this point I felt like I’d finish faster if I crawled….}

Immediately after the run my knee was ok- sore, but manageable. But by the time I got home from the race, I knew I had just done some serious damage. {I was right.}

After icing & resting for a week, I still couldn’t walk. There would be no miraculous recovery- it was time to go to the doctor.

icing knee

Endless x-rays and an MRI later, I learned I had iliotibial band friction syndrome, patellofemoral pain syndrome, swollen knee fat pads, and misaligned tracking of the patella. {This was good news compared to the initial diagnosis of a torn meniscus, which meant knee surgery.}

{And judging by a new set of x-rays, I also have chondromalacia/early arthritis, and severely tilted patellas- & my “good” knee looks worse than my bad knee. Fun.}

runner's knee knee fat pad

Several rounds of physical therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, and more resting & icing ensued. Along with several snazzy new taping styles:

kinesiotape mcconnell taping

I still couldn’t run.

Yesterday was my “final” follow up appointment. The one the doctor scheduled to make sure I was back on my feet & running again.

When he saw I wasn’t, his reaction: “Well, WHY aren’t you better yet?” Umm I don’t know doc, isn’t that your job?

One of the things the doctor had prescribed in physical therapy was iontopheresis: which uses ultrasound to drive cortisone deep into the joint. The PT had other ideas and never did the treatment.

An internal office showdown ensued. {Hello, you work for the same company, in the same building- can’t you guys talk?!}

The doc decided I had to have the cortisone as a last ditch effort. Of course I’m thinking, great more PT. But he said he’d do it today- awesome, one less visit for me!

Then the nurse came in and pulled out two giant syringes with long exposed needles- and just left them on the counter haunting me for the next 20 minutes. They didn’t mean iontopheresis- they meant cortisone injections.


To skip the details, those things HURT. {I did get complemented on my strength of dealing with the pain. I should have gotten a frickin gold star!}

So then I was sent home to let the cortisone do it’s thing along with some stronger anti-inflammatory creams and instructions to come back in another month.

No improvement by next month? Back to that surgery option.

{On a side note, I reacted to the cortisone and have since felt like I’ve packed an entire 2 weeks of the flu into a single 24 hours.}

I’ve already been sidelined for the 2 races I was most looking forward to this year: Iron Girl & 36 North

So here’s to hoping the cortisone does the trick… adios fall race season. <– spoiler alert. None of this worked. Updated: March 2014

You can follow the “highlights” of my knee injury here:

A Restless Month- MRI Time

And the Verdict Is…

All About IT Bands

Hurts So Good- PT Starts

Adding to the Diagnosis

An Attempt with Kinesiotaping

Trying McConnell Taping

The missing triathlons: More Than a Tri & The Post in Which I Admit Defeat

Have you had a running or sports injury? Are you back to running?

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman September 9, 2010 at 8:58 am
Oh my goodness, I feel like you're me years ago. I also got cortisone injections after my doctor told me I shouldn't still be feeling so much pain after rounds of PT including taping and so on. (My response: Well I do, so how can I fix it??) It's different for every person, but the cortisone didn't do anything for me at all. That's when he said he could do exploratory surgery (code: open ya up and poke around till we find something). I didn't want to do that, so that's what led me to get PRP. I'll be honest: The pain is a gazillion times worse than cortisone injections but it also works. I'm not sure if it's something you'd be into, but here's info I wrote on it: I'm crossing my fingers that the cortisone works for you!
Catherine September 9, 2010 at 9:10 am
I had a dance injury that required 3 rounds of cortisone shots in the side of my foot. :( It wasn't fun at all, so I can totally sympathize. I hope the cortisone works for you and you can avoid surgery!! I know I don't "know" you but I was so proud of you for going through all the PT, I was really hoping you'd be up on your feet again soon!!
Heather September 10, 2010 at 9:30 am
Aww thanks!! :)
Matt September 9, 2010 at 9:29 am
Those needles scare me just looking at them. Yikes!
Dorry September 9, 2010 at 9:35 am
You've been through hell with this! So sorry the cortisone made you sick but hopefully it will help your knee. And yes, you deserve a big gold star for dealing with the scary needles. Eeek! We are all pulling for you! :)
Kelly September 9, 2010 at 9:52 am
Ugh, I am STILL paying for all my PT appointments, they totally neglected to inform me how much this would cost after the fact, it's crap. I hope the cortisone works for you, I never had to go that far luckily.
Heather September 10, 2010 at 9:31 am
Oh my gosh I know- I almost passed out when I got my bill, and I was only half way through!
Madeline - Greens and Jeans September 9, 2010 at 11:58 am
Oh geez girl. I had cortisone shots for my IT band and still had to end up having it surgically released. What a nightmare. Of course, recently I've had to go to the PT for a back injury and I'm shaking in my boots to get the bill. Ugh. At least they have me up and running and ready to rock my fall marathon!
Heather September 10, 2010 at 9:32 am
I'm glad you're good to go for your marathon-woohoo!!!
Nichole September 9, 2010 at 1:38 pm
Ah bb:( Sending you well wishes. I know this seems like such a journey, hang in there champ. I can't imagine what you are going through, but I am so proud of you for getting the right help. PS - I love that new snazzy tape!
Heather September 10, 2010 at 9:32 am
All the cool kids are wearing it ;)
Kristina @ spabettie September 9, 2010 at 2:59 pm
sorry, sweetie... I've had cortizone make me feel flu-ey also... I've had multiple cortizone treatments and they have helped me... I really hope this works for you, hang in there, I know it is hard but I am So Proud Of You for doing what needs to be done for overall healing... so there can be MANY Fall Race Seasons in your future! :) XO
Heather September 10, 2010 at 9:33 am
Glad it's not just me! (I mean, bad it mad you feel sick, but glad I'm not crazy;))
Lisa September 9, 2010 at 3:02 pm
Oh GOD. I probably shouldn't have read this post. I hurt my knee. I have a doctor appointment on Monday. I am praying it's not something horrible. :(
Heather September 10, 2010 at 9:33 am
My fingers are crossed for you!!
Sarah September 9, 2010 at 4:19 pm
I'm sorry to hear that you had a cortisone shot. When I broke a bone in my foot and it didn't heal I ended up having 2 different cortisone injections. After the first 24hrs I could see an improvement in my foot. I hope your injection works for your knee! Itoo am hoping to avoid surgery and know how you feel.
Amanda @ bakingwithoutabox September 9, 2010 at 5:32 pm
You poor thing! Ugh. I hate injuries. I'm dealing with an ankle injury which doctors never bothered to diagnose even though I've been to two. I took a whole month off (agony) and came back to do ok on a 5k only to crap out on easy 1 miler a couple of days later. So it's back to the drawing board for me. But I feel so bad for you missing the whole fall season :( Love the snazzy tape! Ouch on the cortisone injections. You deserve more than a gold star. You deserve ice cream with a cherry. Feel better!
Heather September 10, 2010 at 9:34 am
Mmmm ice cream....I like the way you think ;)
Leslie @ Chomp! September 9, 2010 at 7:31 pm
really sorry to hear about your knee! i don't have a knee injury from running (since i'm not really a runner, but that might be because I already have bad knees haha). When I was 13 my left knee cap dislocated for the first time, so my patella was also badly tracking, but to the point where it would occasionally pop out of place. 3 years ago I had major knee surgery to tighten everything up. crutches for 5 weeks, cane for 2 months and physio for 4 months. no fun. knee is much better now, but my focus will always have to be strength training to keep my muscles strong enough so its never a problem again.
Cynthia (It All Changes) September 10, 2010 at 1:49 am
Sorry you had to get shot. I had the same dilemma with my calf tear. On round two of the cortisone and this time I got a nasty bruise. Hoping it works for you. I know you much miss the running like crazy...I do.
Orthopedic Doctor October 24, 2010 at 6:58 am
Patellar maltracking is not a good news.. especially for runners. It causes a slow damage to the knee joint. But yes as regards meniscal injury that is a much smaller issue. Good going .. Orthopedic Doctor Just blogged...Broken Knee Injuries Symptoms- Diagnosis- and Treatment

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