I ended up paying for a private MRI scan (thank you, unexpected work assignment, for funding this!) to get the definitive answer about what is wrong with my knee. The scan confirmed that I do have a tear in the body of the medial meniscus as well as some roughness of the medial edge. There was a lot of fluid behind my femur which the consultant thought might be from a resolving burst Baker's Cyst, but I don't particularly believe this because I never had any symptoms of a Baker's Cyst, burst or otherwise. And, of course, I know best...Otherwise, my knee is in good shape with 'good preservation of cartilage thickness' and healthy tendons and ligaments.
Julie the Physio gave me a huge pep talk after seeing the results (as well as giving me some more exercises to promote fluid drainage and a better range of movement). Her view is 'treat the knee, not the MRI,' which meant that she encouraged me to keep running as long as my knee wasn't too unhappy. And, unless I completely misunderstood her, it's really my pain tolerance that should be the deciding factor about how much I run as opposed to some arbitrary random mileage or frequency limit.
Her final words were, 'Stop running like you have a torn meniscus!' So that's what I've been trying to do. And she's right, if I didn't know what the MRI showed, I wouldn't be worried at all about how my knee feels. I've certainly run through worse pain than this before; in fact, my knee now twinges only occasionally during a run. It's afterwards that I feel the effects and even then, it's discomfort rather than pain and generally resolves by the next day. So, I'm up to running three times/week now with the longest run 5 miles. And it's all going fine.
Also on the advice of Julie the Physio, I've been running off-road to give my joints a bit of a rest. There are woods which are a five minute drive from the house but in the over ten years that I've lived here, I have never been there. Ever. What was I thinking???? Because running in those woods is AMAZING! It's not just the softness underfoot, it's the lovely trees, it's the views of the distant hills, and it's realising that I really really like running uphill. Who knew? I've always avoided significant uphills (and downhills) on the road, partly through laziness but mainly through fear that I'd tear another calf muscle unless I stayed on the flat. Those days are long gone, though, thanks to Chi Running and, to paraphrase Julie the Physio, 'run the legs that you have, not the ones that used to give you so much trouble.'
So, as proof of my off-road adventures, here's what I got up to on today's five mile loop:
|My new trail shoes! Very pretty, very comfy.|
|At the start: 1.5 miles gentle(ish) uphill, then turn right to...|
|A lovely half-mile downhill.|
|Turn right onto a flat bit for 1.5 miles, then...|
|Turn right again onto a lovely half-mile uphill (this is taken from the top; I did run up it!)|
|And home for soup and cake.|