Hi, I'm The Blogger's Wife. This is still his baby but apparently I get to throw in my two cents' from time to time, so I'll take full advantage.
So about a year into my running career I started noticing some pain under my kneecaps. It was mostly just while running up or down hills and sometimes while climbing or descending stairs. Gradually it became more and more prominent, but being the non-hospital-going type that I am, I kept convincing myself that it would go away. It didn't. I finally set up an appointment with at at orthopedic practice in Muncie, Indiana, where I was told that initial x-rays showed nothing wrong, I was probably just making it up, and I was fine. Now, I'm not a crier (no matter what my husband may say) but I definitely cried as I was leaving. . .I mean, by that point I couldn't even DRIVE without my knees hurting, but he was telling me there was nothing wrong?
It was another year or so of agony before I finally was convinced to go back to another doctor. This one gave me the diagnosis I had been pretty sure I would hear - chondromalacia, or patellofemoral pain syndrome. Basically what this entails is a roughening of the underside of the patella. It generally is caused by the patella being pulled laterally instead of straight over the joint. The two main causes for this are a relatively weak VMO (compared to your lateral quad muscles) and the Q-angle. In women, the angle between your hips and knee (aka. . .the Q-angle) is wider than in men, causing the patella to be pulled towards that outer hip.
The diagnosing doctor gave me a few exercises for my VMO (some good ones are straight leg raises, lateral leg raises, and partial squats while holding a ball between your knees. Also helpful is running backwards or going backwards on an elliptical machine.)and gave me another nugget of wisdom that I knew but didn't want to heed. . .rest will make you feel a whole lot better.
I didn't rest like I probably should have, but what did seem to help was the crosstraining on an elliptical. I don't like gyms or elliptical machines, but a half hour or 45 minutes of going backwards on one a couple of times a week really did seem to help out the knees some. Then I quit doing that and just stuck to trail running. I think you can guess how that went. It was four days after our first trail marathon that suddenly from a seated position I couldn't even lift my leg to cross it over the other. . .my knee simply couldn't handle the weight of my lower leg without causing debilitating pain.
And then I rested, finally.
Moral of the story? Chondromalacia is not fun. It's a very distinct pain - you'll feel it on inclines, declines, stairs, and whenever your leg is bent with weight on it. Rest it, ice it, and strengthen that VMO!