Thursday, October 20, 2011

Knee Rehab - Life After The Needles

Yes, this is me - on a bike - on the road - in a light drizzle - pedaling! How could this be?

I can not even remember how many weeks it has been now since the knee surgery - 6 or 7 maybe 8 - too many that's for sure. My recover has been progressing with good days and yes bad days and I started to spin on the CompuTrainers at TotalCyclist ( a little in hopes to progress from no resistance to hopefully being able to watch my power start to build again. Of course, still completely unable to pedal standing up even after a few weeks of spinning with little to no resistance. With a second knee surgery looming in the near future, my one hope was to ride again outside on the road with the wind in my face - and I would even take the rain and snow and hail at this point even bugs and mud - before I start this process all over again. Still working with Mark Kane ( 3 times a week for knee rehab, he began to sense my frustration with the inconsistencies of how my knee would feel and move on a day to day basis. So I think instead of hearing me explain my need to be back on the bike and train with my teammates again and again and again, Mark suggested a new approach in addition to the soft tissue and mobility/strength exercises.

Now, anyone who knows me, knows I have three great fears in life. I will not name them all but one happens to be needles and I was about to come face to face with one of the big three fears. NEEDLES! Mark suggested Trigger Point Dry Needling. It is a technique involving multiple advances of a filament needle into the muscle in the region of a “Trigger Point’. The aim of Dry Needling is to achieve a local twitch response to release muscle tension and pain. This technique is unequaled in finding and eliminating neuromuscular dysfunction that leads to pain and functional deficits. A healthy muscle feels very little discomfort with insertion of this needle. However if the muscle is sensitive and shortened or has active trigger points within it, the subject will feel a sensation like a muscle cramp -‘the twitch response’. That is the technical jargon - what it is are these tiny needles (resembling acupuncture type needles) that are tapped lightly into a muscle causing some discomfort or into a muscle group that is connected to an area of discomfort. So with my motto to "Face The Danger" echoing in my head, I allowed Mark to try the dry needling on the quads and VMO. And yes, truth be told, I personally did not find this to be the most pleasurable of procedures as my muscles were triggered by the needles into a spasm BUT the immediate release was noticeable as soon as I stood up and walked around. My knee was moving almost freely with less stiffness present. However, the next day was a miracle! There is really no other word to describe it. My knee felt the closest to normal it has in 8 weeks or so.

So I returned for a second round of the needles, this time a bit more knowledgable of the results. I also returned with my road bike in hand because - come on - I have to get back on the bike!!! Round 2 started out with Mark watching me pedal the bike on a trainer to see exactly where I was having issues. Then after a few carefully placed needles, we would return to the bike and see the difference. It was working! My biggest issue with spinning was not being able to complete a rotation while I was standing on the pedals. So we worked that area for a while so he could see what might be causing the problem. A few needles later and I was standing and completing full rotations on the bike. You know what came next - well I took the bike out to the road - just a short ride but I was on the road again. It was obvious today that I have lost a lot of fitness and power and my left side is extremely weak. But I do not care - feeling the wind in my face was all I needed! Needle away Mark Kane!

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