Tendinitis (also informally referred to as tendonitis) is one of the most common running injuries experienced by those of us who constantly overdue it. One of the most painful injuries I have experienced during running is Quadricep Tendinitis. It caused me to drastically reduce my mileage for a period of time, and was partially responsible for me coming up 20 miles short of my 2500 mile goal in 2010. But in the end it helped discover recovery methods that I had not previously been using.
What is it?
Most tendon injuries and inflammation are from pushing your muscles faster or further than they are prepared to go. This was probably the case with me. I was running faster times than ever before, but probably not putting in the work at the gym to prevent injury.
Why it started & How it felt ...
As with most tendinitis injuries, this was caused by overuse and under-stretching. It came on gradually - nothing I did specifically caused it, like a muscle pull or tear or something. It seemed to intensify in the winter months as the temperatures plunges and my tendons began to tighten. As I get older, this is something that I have struggled with. In the summer months, I seem to run injury free for the most part. But in the winter I just seem to never "get loose".
The strange thing about this injury was that I never felt it in my quadriceps, mainly my kneecap. For me, the pain started directly on top of the left kneecap and was painful to touch. But the really acute pain happened on runs when I would bend my knee after a stride. It felt like my knee was frozen solid and would almost burn when I bent it at it's most severe.
There was a little noticeable swelling just above the knee cap, but no discoloration at any time. This swelling was usually most evident late in the day before bed.
Usually running for a while loosened it up a little. After about 5 miles or so, with increasing speed, it would become less painful on runs. But if I stopped, it immediately started hurting again.
How I fixed it ...
As with most running injuries, I reluctantly reduced my mileage. I also virtually eliminated all quad workouts at the gym - mostly because they were too painful to perform. In the beginning, when the pain was the most severe, I would ice immediately after runs for about 20 minutes, and then about two more times during the day.
I then began mixing in heat with a microwavable rice bag - and this seemed to help more than anything else. I used heat before every run and workout. It seemed to loosen up the area around the tendon and allow it move freely. The rice bag is something that can easily be homemade by filling a wool boot sock about 1/3 full of white rice, and then tying a knot in the top. Microwave for about 2 minutes. The rice produces a warm moist heat that feels great.
I also tried to mix in additional protein into my diet, get more rest, and increase my stretching. But unfortunately the best healer was probably time. It was just something I had to deal with for a while. I was able to "run through" it, but it made running pretty miserable for a about a month.