Trumping Tendonitis

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After completing the Kettle 100k, I had a pretty nasty flare-up of tendonitis on the back of my right knee. Like most runners, I have had experience with tendonitis in the past. In fact, when I was a sophomore at UW–Stevens Point, I had a particularly bad case of tendonitis that sidelined me for all of both indoor and outdoor track and field (15 weeks total of no running). The case of tendonitis that I carried into Kettle 100k and that really flared up the days after the race was probably as bad as, if not worse than, the case I had back in college (judging by pain level and joint mobility around the affected area), but this time I only had to give up running for eight days. This got me really thinking.

What made my tendonitis heal so much faster this time? I know tendonitis is very case by case—sometimes it just needs some stretching, other times a day or two off, and at worst multiple weeks off from running. But 8 days versus 15 weeks for a similar injury is no small difference. This time around, I realized, I was armed with a much better rehabilitation protocol than I had back in college. And because tendonitis is such a common ailment for runners, I thought it'd be valuable to document exactly what I do to get back on the road when I encounter tendonitis.

What finally helped shake the tendonitis I got back in college was the yucca root supplement from NOW Foods. Since then, I have always kept a bottle of yucca root on hand in case of any minor flare-ups or general inflammation.

Before the Kettle 100k, I had a few flare-ups my knee, but I was able to manage them with a few days of rest and a lot of yucca root. Afterwards, though, the yucca and rest alone were not working quite as fast as I would have liked. (Possibly something to do with running 100 kilometers in one day?) Bent on getting back to training, I pulled out all the stops, which included four main procedures:

First, the most obvious remedies were stretching and rest. Research showed that lots of times tendonitis behind the knee can be fixed much quicker by stretching out some of the major muscle groups in the legs. With this in mind, I stopped running and began stretching out my quads, hamstrings, gluts, and calves. I used a series of both dynamic and static stretches, as well as some foam rolling.

Second, I attacked the inflammation with vegetation. I continued with the yucca root supplement from NOW Foods that has helped me in the past. I like yucca root because it is one of nature's most potent anti-inflammatory, and it differs from ibuprofen in that it does not block the inflammatory properties that help with the healing of the injury. It also does not mask the pain, so there's no risk of a false sense of healing. I upped my typical routine of yucca capsules and bought a liquid concentrate of curcumin extract. Curcumin is the part of turmeric that also has the similar anti-inflammatory properties of yucca root. The stuff tastes horrific, but as my tendon began to heal, I couldn’t argue with it.

Third, I focused on the micronutrient magnesium. This was yet another way to help with the inflammation that was lingering in my right leg. The route I took was a warm epsom salt bath nightly (thanks Peter Defty for this piece of advice), as well as a topical magnesium spray (before bed and in the morning). I think the epsom salt bath was probably the thing that provided the biggest improvement. In the days after Kettle 100k, my right leg was so inflamed that, when looking at both legs in the mirror, it didn’t even look like they belonged to the same person. The inflammation was gradually reducing, but on the first morning after the first epsom salt bath was the most noticeable amount of reduction in inflammation.

Fourth, I upped my typical intake of bone broth. I like making my own bone broth at home. I do this mainly for all the awesome micronutrients that can be extracted from bones if slow cooked for 20+ hours. I started taking this once or twice a day. If you slow cook the bones along with the connective tissue still intact, you can get some of the gelatin included in your mixture. The gelatin is what I was after, as it is valuable in healing and strengthening tendons (you can buy gelatin or collagen too, but I buy enough meat with the bones that it makes more sense for me to make my own).

With all said and done, I took eight complete days off from running, which was nowhere near to the 15 weeks I had to take off last time. What a relief! I will definitely keep the procedure of stretch, yucca, turmeric (or curcumin extract), magnesium, and bone broth in mind next time I battle with inflammation.