Verdant woods. Contemplative waterfalls. Even a private beach. All within the confines of Brooklyn. Who knew? OK, the private beach is actually for dogs, but still. If you haven???t guessed, we???re talking about Prospect Park, a swath of undulating green expanse smack in the middle of Brooklyn. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the same two guys who designed Manhattan???s Central Park, and its winding paths and changing landscapes make it a great place to take a run.
For many New Yorkers ??? even those with the best intentions, not just the lazy couch potatoes ??? running becomes problematic as they age or after an injury, thanks to that all-too-common runner???s complaint, painful knees.
Fortunately, both Eastern and Western medicine offer lots of options for getting your knees in better shape, reducing the pain that???s keeping off the trails of Prospect Park. Here are seven to consider:
- Stretching: This is an essential part ??? or should be ??? of any runner???s routine. Performing regular stretching exercises extends the amount of time you can remain active and reduces the risk of injury, in addition to lessening those minor muscle knots that can cause major discomfort. While stretching is important to help strengthen knees so they don???t become injured, it can???t heal a tissue injury. And, in order to see real results, you have to be sure you???re stretching correctly so you don???t cause additional strain.
- Rest: If you???re just beginning to experience pain, avoiding running and taking time to rest your knee can help the body heal itself naturally. Of course, extensive injuries require prolonged periods of inactivity, and that???s often beyond the endurance of restless New Yorkers. What???s more, while rest can help some injuries, like those involving minor inflammation, like stretching, it may not be effective on its own for more serious problems.
- Physical therapy: A therapist can develop a routine or exercising and stretching that???s targeted to address your specific needs, which means it can be especially effective in achieving results. The primary drawback: unless you have insurance and a prescription from a doctor, treatment can be expensive. Physical therapy also typically involves a lot of sessions over time, and you need to be consistent to get results.
- Acupuncture: Straight from the good old East, acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to treat injuries and other medical conditions and health issues. For runners, it can provide quick relief and it???s been shown to have a very high success rate in treating sports injuries like running-related knee pain. It???s also affordable and can help reduce stress as well as treating other issues, all during the same session. Check out this video to see how acupuncture helped one runner get back to the sport she loves. On the downside, most acupuncturists don???t accept insurance, which means you may wind up paying for treatment out of pocket, and if you???re afraid of needles, that???s a hurdle you???re going to have to get over. It can also be difficult to find a really good, qualified acupuncturist.
- Yoga: The gentle stretches and poses provide the ideal exercise for sore joints, strengthening muscles and improving flexibility to reduce the risk of future injury. As great as it is for general health, yoga stretches aren???t designed to treat specific injuries. You should also let your instructor know if you???re having knee pain so he or she can modify your stretches and poses when needed to avoid putting additional strain on the joint. A couple of great yoga studios we recommend are Bikram Downtown and Jivamukti.
- Medical pain management: Seeing a doctor and being prescribed pain medication is always an option, and it certainly can offer quick relief from your discomfort. However, narcotic pain medications can take a toll on the body, and some patients run the risk of becoming addicted. Finally, pain relievers don???t treat the underlying problem.
- Massage therapy: No doubt about it: Massage feels great. And there are other advantages too. For instance, massage therapy is targeted: A professional therapist will work specifically on your pain points to reduce muscle knots and relieve inflammation in the knee area. The drawbacks: Massage typically is not covered by insurance, so it can be costly. Also, many massage practices are geared more toward a spa experience than toward pain management.
In each of these options, the most important thing is to get treatment right away so you can get the best possible results. Once your knees are feeling better, pop on your running shoes and head out to Prospect Park for a bit of bucolic Brooklyn. And while you???re there, be sure to give a shout out to the ghost of good, old Montgomery Clift ??? he???s buried there. Oh, did we forget to mention that?