Archive | July, 2013

Plica Syndrome – Taking the Road to Running Recovery

10 Jul

It’s official – I have plica syndrome. So much for NOT getting injured while running.

No, it’s not a self diagnosis but the actual diagnosis from my knee specialist. In fact, here’s a great synopsis (from Washington Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine) on what plica syndrome is.

The plica is a fold of joint lining (synovial tissue) that is a remnant of tissue from embryologic development. During embryologic development, bands of tissue divide the limbs into joints. These bands may persist into adulthood in up to 60% of people, although it infrequently causes symptoms. Several different band types may exist. These bands may become thickened and inflamed, causing varying symptoms.

How’d I get it?

Trauma to the knee, either direct, or with repetitive knee bending and straightening activity, causes thickening of the plica, and it loses its elasticity (becomes less stretchy). As a result, the plica pinches on the inner knee joint (medial femoral condyle) and inner patella. The pain is felt to be due to pinching or pulling of the plica band, which has many nerve endings.

The likely cause for my case is trying to rack up more mileage than my body could handle too quickly. The goal was the Disney Princess Half Marathon, which was lots of fun, but unfortunately, at the expense of my dear left knee. The doc also mentioned that I probably had weak hip muscles (which I disregarded at first). And it probably didn’t help that I also jumped back into kickboxing after a one month break of sickness instead of letting my body ease into it.

All that said, now I’m on the road to recovery so I can get active along with everyone else this Summer.

Chilling at PT

The prescription was something I never expected – physical therapy. I watched my younger brother’s physical therapy a few times when I had visited over the holidays, but being the patient is very different. And as I’ve began my physical therapy sessions, there are a few “habits” and ways of thinking I had to change.

  1. Completing the task/exercise faster is not always better – While I may be able to swim faster when in a time crunch or modify my run to exercise more than just my legs, trying to complete the exercise at PT is not always better. In fact, doing the exercise slower really helped me focus more on what muscles were being stretched and exercised and I was better able to be in better tune with my body. Which also showed me just how weak I was in my hip and core despite my perception of how fit I thought I was.
  2. It’s the little things – Some of the exercises I was assigned to practice at home seemed like stretches and “baby exercises” I would not normally even consider as part of a routine workout. But when done correctly with small details like point the toes forward or flex and hold, I could feel and see my muscles really working. Also practicing some of the exercises even while sitting or standing at my desk was a great reminder of my road to recovery.
  3. Make it routine – Whenever Summer hits, I find myself staying out later and traveling more which also usually means not sticking to a rigid schedule and horrible sleep patterns. But even while we were at Virginia Beach for Memorial Day Weekend, it really helped to practice my exercises while waiting at the hotel or in the morning before heading to the beach. Ideally, I should be incorporating my exercises into my morning routine, but I admittedly have not been as great at doing this yet.
  4. Be humble – I found myself somewhat envious when I’d see the Atlanta runners or long to go for a bike ride whenever I’d see kids speeding by, but I had to remind myself that to get better faster, I had better take it slow. It also didn’t help that my office had a pedometer challenge while I had to limit how much walking I could do.  I’ll admit, I did try to run a few times at the park while getting my pedometer steps in, but the stabbing pain in my knee screamed at me to take it easy. So accept your body’s condition and instead of trying to fight it, help it with the right exercises it needs.

Not sure if it’s the 20’s to 30’s thing to do these days, but it seems like everyone and their siblings are training for half marathons, marathons and triathlons. My only word of caution is to listen to your body and train properly! While I trust your body is strong (as I assumed mine was), your “high school” accomplishments and records you may have set cannot beat  the hours in training you put in with your current condition.

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