Monday, February 11, 2013

Unexpected Knee Pain Help

One of my long-standing issues is knee pain. Specifically, knee pain associated with iliotibial band syndrome, AKA IT band syndrome, and possibly Runner's knee combined. At its worst, I could not go up and down stairs without heavily relying on the banister. At its best, I don't feel discomfort, but I'm still careful about how I use the stairs to avoid certain movements that cause pain.

I have a parent duty day on the 21st. This might seem completely unrelated to my knees, but bear with me. The parent duty day time is from 9 am to 4 pm in a three-story church building. And we're not allowed to use the elevator.

Some moms a couple of weeks ago were saying how having to help out on different levels and all the stairs was killing them. One mom who is there every week said she calls Thursdays her workout day. My thoughts went straight to my knees: What was I going to do? How would I manage a parent duty day without being in absolute pain during--and after? I can often do activities and it's not until later that the IT band flares up and the knee pain sets in.

Picture borrowed from this article on IT band syndrome

An answer came: Do stairs. "What? You're kidding, right?" I said to myself. I didn't start right then, even though I knew it was going to be a good idea. Start slow and build up, it would help. It hit me last Thursday that I only had two weeks before my duty day. "Two weeks of training is enough, right?" Not sure. But two weeks is better than none at all.

On Friday, I started. I live in a four-level split with three short sets of stairs totalling 20 steps. The church has a set of stairs, a mid-way landing, another set to the second level landing, another set to the mid-way landing and the final set to the top level. I'm guessing it's between 40-60 stairs. And they're steeper than mine.

I opened up my basement door, my lowest level, and started going up the stairs. Did them all and went back down. For my first day, I did 3 sets of this. It was tough! Second day, I repeated and my atrophying muscles, who were now woken up, kind of complained. Knees and IT band all tingly, but no increase in pain. The third day, yesterday, I went for 4 sets. I was even kind of worried I was doing too much too quickly (that's what caused this all in the first place). But I felt absolutely fine this morning, so I did 4.5 today. This is not to say that I don't use the stairs at other times during the day, but I don't ever do all the sets in a row like that.

The side of my knees are feeling a little tingly right now and I can actually feel my IT band on both sides (that is, feel it without touching! kind of a tingle), but all in all, so far, so good. Actually, really good. As my weak muscles are getting stronger, even though it's only been a few days, my general stair climbing feels better. Fewer sharp pains suddenly showing up in my knees and just feeling more stable.

I've done in the past all kinds of different exercises to help strengthen the glutes and stretch the IT band and all that. The yoga for the IT band has been the greatest help, until now. While I still love my yoga for the IT band and will keep doing it fairly regularly, the stair climbing, the thing that's been the hardest to do for ages, is what's actually helping the most.

Go figure.

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