Monday, October 26, 2009

When An Injury Comes Along, You Must Fix It!

Sticks And Stones Will Break My Bones, But Weights Will Never Hurt Me!

(Consider this "Part Two" of a prior post on stretching)

It has become more clear to me than ever before that I had been severely neglecting the maintenance aspect of my training. Why? I think part of it has to do with the rush and excitement of a new method of training: like a kid in a candy store, you want to try everything, but before you know it, your stomach is having sugar seizures (try saying that 5 times!).

Another huge culprit of no stretching, for me, was plain old laziness. Stretching takes time, and patience - something I didn't have much of during the first year and a half of CrossFit. Stretching and warming up seemed to have a negative effect on my actual performance, and strangely enough it would psych me out. Skipping the warm-up and stretch seemed much more beneficial. It was good while it lasted.

Earlier this summer in the beginning of June, I began to increase my training in order to prepare for some hard upcoming WODs this summer. I didn't know it just yet, but doomsday was rearing its ugly head, and it was making its way towards me, full speed.
The day after the workout that had finally pushed me over the edge - 400m sprint, 400m walking lunge, 400m sprint - the pain started to kick in. I couldn't put an ounce of weight on my right leg! I let about four weeks go by before getting it checked out, simply because I was afraid to hear the worst. All I could think of was all the training I had done over the past year and a half and how it was all about to go to waste.

I was referred to an amazing sports rehabilitation centre here in Mississauga,
SPC Mississauga, where I was finally given the news I needed to hear:

"You have PFPS."

What in the hell is that?!

PFPS stands for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, which is described as "pain under and around the knee cap." Any forward inclination on the knee (walking lunges, box jumps, jump rope, basically an explosive activity on the knee) was not permitted. This was not the absolute worst diagnosis I
could have been given, fortunately. Had my physiotherapist said "You have an MCL tear," I would have had a lot more to worry about. He said if I were to come in for treatment once a week for a few weeks, and come for bi-weekly check-ups, and continued doing the at-home exercises as directed, I would bounce back in no time.

It was ALL I had to do to get better...a little dedication and some sacrifice in training, and all would be well...
Unfortunately, due to my lack of dedication, I failed to keep up with the exercises, and subsequently discontinued my visits to physiotherapy. Yes, I am an idiot. The epitome of idiot to be exact.

It is now October and I am still dealing with chronic pain. Every couple of weeks my knee begins to feel stronger, without the help of proper stretching and knee exercises, and I begin to think I am okay again. I pick a workout that involves heavy cleans, box jumps, wall balls, etc., and the next day I am back at square one: inflammation of the knee, throbbing pain and sharp pains.

What I have finally learned over the past five months is that injuries do not just disappear. They cannot be neglected, and you MUST take care of them as soon as possible if you want full recovery. The exercises that help strengthen your injury may seem monotonous, boring and maybe even pointless, BUT THEY HELP.

I have now vowed to myself that I will NOT do any strenuous lower body work until I am fully healed. It may be tough for many of you to come to terms with your injury, but patience is a virtue.

Fear of gaining weight:

The only reason why you should worry about gaining weight and losing muscle is if your diet goes to s**t. Stay tight on your diet and you should be fine. You have all the time in the world to bounce back and start lifting heavy again, especially if your body has become accustomed to it.

Muscle memory:

Muscle memory is a beautiful thing. If you are someone who has trained consistently in weightlifting, gymnastics, running, etc., then taking time off will not have a major effect on your body; in fact, strength will increase at a much more rapid rate the second time around than if you were to have just begun training in any of these domains.

Learn from my mistakes and do not jeopardize your recovery simply because you are afraid of becoming weak, or fat. It won't happen if you change your training to compensate for your injury!


  1. Interesting....I think this is EXACTLY what's going on with my knee right now. I should get it checked out. It feels sorta like tendonitis....right on the top/inside of the knee cap and it gets better quickly with ice and rest.

  2. Yep, sounds like me. When my quad muscles get tight from a workout, they tend to tug more on the patella. Roll the CRAP out of your IT bands, hamstrings and quads; and use a ball to roll your hip flexors and glutes as well

  3. Ouchie :( Sorry to hear about this. Hope your rehabing goes well. Good thing you do your post wod stretchies :)

  4. i empathize with you 100%. And I seem to have the same stubborness as you. Been there,done that. You learn from your mistakes, but your post here warns people not to follow the same route.

    Where people should really take your advice seriously is the DIET... that's where I went wrong. Ice Cream made me feel soooo much better during my injury. I'm paying for it now and still fighting to lose back the weight I've gained.

    Good luck with your rehab Melissa. Stay strong :)- Janine

  5. Wow your blog is deja vu. I've been off Crossfit for almost a year now because my shoulder and knee. I want to go back but I'm afraid the pain will come back and get worse. Physio makes you feel like a child but it's brought me tons of relief.

    Stay strong you little power house.

    Michelle =)

  6. Ha! Thanks Ev :P

    YES JANINE. Diet is so so so almost acts as a 'pause' button while you're rehabbing; your body has more of a tendency to veer towards a more lean composition if you stay dialed in on your diet. I'm getting back on that diet wagon right now too. It's hard to get on, that's for sure...

    Michelle, have you had your shoulder and knee checked out other than by a physiotherapist? I was told to get an MRI done on my knee - thinking of booking an appointment soon...I think it's a good idea for you if you haven't yet :)

  7. I hurt my back about a month ago. Your post mirrors my own experience.

    The only thing I can add is that an injured athlete should find what he CAN do without aggravating the injury, and focus on getting a lot better at it.

    For me that has been muscleups, handstands, one leg squats, and double unders.

    Nice blog btw.

  8. Russ, I meant to mention that, thanks for adding that little tidbit!

    I had actually begun to do a lot of upper body work with pullups, pushups, strict press, strict pullups, ring dips/pushups and some deadlifting as well as rowing, GHD sit-ups and rope climbs. Basically anything upper body-related. I was really close to getting a muscle-up, and that's when I decided to do more lower body-demanding exercises; I thought my knee had healed over enough. Clearly not!!

  9. I've been doing PT for some time now and I think your problem is pretty typical, but I don't think you should just "rest". I love Crossfit, but many PT's think its a shitty program, but they just don't embrace the concept of CF. What you should do is continue to foam roll your ITB, but you should also stretch your hip flexors (Thomas stretch and kneeling psoas stretch) because the Rectus can effect the patella. Also, work on your patellar mobility, just take your patella and move it around, it should move freely in all directions. Lastly, I think taking out the functional movements like squatting and lunging are not the best thing for you, but you need to make sure you are performing them properly. Your knee should not pass your toes and your "shin" should stay vertical as you squat down, engaging your posterior chain and your knees should not "crash" in toward the middle as you squat. Also, work on your hip control/strength. Hope this helps, good blog!

  10. Thanks Nash

    As a trainer, I know these cues; however, I made the grave mistake of not listening to myself when I needed rest or needed to stretch. Stretching was literally non-existent for me before, and that is the reason why my injury exists. I just wish I didn't hate stretching so much, otherwise I'd be fine :(

  11. Great post Melissa!

    I'm currently working through a couple of injuries myself. I got hurt back on October the 10th doing a CF Football WOD with heavy power cleans. I got in too big of a hurry trying to beat the clock and stopped focusing on my form. Result: a week on the couch with a messed up shoulder and a bulging disc in my neck. I just finished my last week of PT for my neck and my shoulder is in good shape again, but I have to rebuild strength on my left side because it's been underworked for so long. Muscle memory is kicking in though and it's rebuilding quicker than I expected.

    To add insult to injury (or injury to injury in this case). I had knee surgery a couple years ago (just a minor scope) but I suppose I landed on it wrong a couple of weeks ago and it swelled up and got a little tender. So now I have to keep a light brace on it and be careful not to let it torque at all and avoid impacting it. The injury saga continues...

    Good luck! I hope you get through it soon (well, as soon as your PT recommends...)

  12. Russ:
    As far as focusing on what you CAN do... yes BUT.
    Yes but if your shoulder is giving you problems, don't do squats, lunges, box jumps and running until your knees stage a mutiny. Shoulder is doing much better. Knees are still recovering. ;)

  13. Ummm how about you use all the free time you have to write another blog post instead of just shopping....just a suggestion

  14. CrossFit claims another victim....You should have worked out smarter, not harder.