Clinical Conversations

From Knee Injury to Half Marathon Completion in 3 weeks

This is about a shoulder derangement that was identified, and fixed in 10 minutes. But there is more background to the story.

Debbie (a fictitious name for the real person) was training for her first 1/2 Marathon, held in Portland, Oregon. About 3 weeks before the event she presented to physical therapy complaining of pain behind the knee. Such an injury so close to a sporting event is automatically worrisome because it threatens participation. Both Debbie and I were concerned that it could stop her from being able to run the 1/2 marathon!

I performed a mechanical assessment per the McKenzie Method, combined with Cyriax style selective tissue tension tests, and diagnosed the knee pain as “semitendinosis tendinitis”, named according to Laslett nomenclature. It is a lesion of the hamstring.

Although Debbie had good hamstring flexibility, I deduced, based on her history (she was certified as a yoga instructor), that she normally had more. Treatment consisted of stretching out her hamstrings, combined with manual deep tissue mobilization of the hamstring muscle belly. It worked!

She ran the 1/2 Marathon without any knee pain! However, her shoulder became painful during the event! She asked me to look at it 4 days later since it had not subsided on its own.

She presented with what appeared to be a clear contractile lesion of the infraspinatus tendon, with a weak resisted test of lateral rotation. However, there were two pieces of information that were inconsistent with this conclusion. 1) Resisted shoulder flexion was painful with the elbow positioned behind the body, but painless with the elbow in front. 2)
There was no tenderness at all near the infraspinatus tendon, which would be typical , but not required, for the lesion to be harbored in the infraspinatus tendon.

Further mechanical assessment was needed, and this followed the McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy. Repeated tests would differentiate between a derangement and other possible pathologies. I surmised that the arm bone could have been malpositioned in the shoulder girdle from Debbie pumping her arms while running. The logical step was to reverse the activity of arm pumping and correct the derangement. So I instructed her to reach all the way across her body with that arm and then push it further using the other hand. This became less and less painful until there was no pain! Furthermore, it resulted in much less pain produced by resisted flexion afterward! Another exercise–that of rotating the arm bone back into place–worked well also, virtually rendering all prior painful tests, painless!

Needless to say, Debbie was very pleased with both the rapid results with her shoulder, and grateful that her knee pain was treated in time for her to complete her 1/2 marathon!