As I got out of my car in the parking lot near the Valley Green Inn along Forbidden Drive to meet my friend for a run, I noticed he was wearing not one, but two knee braces. When I asked him what the problem was, he said his knees had recently flared up but that he could run without pain for most of the run if he wore the braces. Even though the pain would gradually intensify as we circled Wissahickon Park's network of trails, he kept reassuring me he was 'ok'. 'Just need to ice 'em down and rest afterwards!' Oh, ok. Right.
Let me get this straight. You're using a brace so that you can complete a training run? Are the Olympics next week? Where do you think you are going to go from here?
Perhaps by continuing to train with devices wrapped around your knees you will get better on your own, but we both know that's not gonna happen. Training with braces, wraps, tape, etc is simply training in denial (stage 2 of the stages of grief).
Sure, modern technology has allowed us to train through pain with these devices. That doesn't mean we should.
We're told by media and our culture that pain shouldn't keep us off the playing field. Here, use this cream or take this pill – and get back out there! You don't have to stop training!
The message is that pain is an inconvenience and that our training schedule is more important than the pain message sent by our bodies. We act surprised, irritated and inconvenienced when the subtle pain message becomes an alarm, as if it is the first we have heard it.
Listen, pain is a warning sign and your body is actually quite amazing in that you can continue to run despite it. Thousands of repetitions (strides) can be performed before the pain becomes chronic. I think that's pretty cool.
But people are pretty dumb.
Rather than make any attempt at uncovering the cause of the pain -poor alignment, overuse, imbalance and inflammation- we will choose easy. Strap on your Cho-Pat Knee Strap and keep running!
Think about your precious car. The warning light comes on and your oil is low, your battery is almost dead or you have a slow leak in the tire. What do you do? That's right, you get it fixed immediately! No one wants to break down and be stranded on the side of the road – especially in weather like we've had this winter..
Now, think about your body. Hopefully you value your body more than your car.
Are you going to continue to cover up your pain signals and be ignorant to pain's natural self-limiting nature? Or are you going to get to the bottom of the problem and figure out what's CAUSING your pain?
That's where I start with my clients. I perform a detailed functional movement screen and biomechanical assessment, then scrutinize their training history. I gather as much information as I can. It's important for me to maintain as broad a perspective as possible and observe the 'whole person'.
And if I can't figure it out, I'll send you to someone who can. Let me know if I can help!
Oh, and my buddy? Turns out his hips were weak and unstable. Not that he's a bad person ;-)
After cross training and performing my drills for several weeks his pain subsided naturally – and he didn't lose ANY fitness like he'd feared. He's been running without band-aids for over 2 years now and I bet he'll never have the same problem again now that he's been educated.