New York City musician Alex Levy had been running regularly for 20 years when he began experiencing persistent pain in his right knee. He tried strengthening exercises with a trainer, then chiropractic work with an osteopath. Neither offered relief. Finally he got an MRI. His medial meniscus, the cartilage that absorbs shock in the knee, was partially torn. His doctor said surgery was his only option.
A friend urged Levy to see a physical therapist and movement specialist, someone who focuses on the body's biomechanics and corrective exercises. Levy landed in the office of Chris Delehanty, owner of PhysioFitness in New York. Delehanty ran Levy through a series of squat, lunge, and stability tests to pinpoint imbalances that could be contributing to the problem. Then he got Levy on the massage table, to stretch and knead his leg muscles to detect any spots that could be causing, or compounding, the knee pain. He noticed that a tough knot of tissue in Levy's inner right thigh was putting pressure on a nerve connecting to the knee. When Delehanty applied pressure to release the inner thigh, Levy felt a tingling sensation travel down to exactly where he was feeling pain, and that pain immediately released. Delehanty gave Levy a handful of exercises to prevent his thigh muscles from bunching up and to strengthen his knee — essential for protecting the torn meniscus while it healed on its own. He told Levy that small tears are common, and not to worry; the meniscus was just masking the real issue.
The Bottom Line
Not all knee problems are so easy to correct, Delehanty says, and sometimes surgery is unavoidable. But before knee, shoulder, hip, or any joint-related surgery, consider a consultation with a movement specialist. Levy certainly has no regrets. "I'm 98 percent pain-free and back to running five days a week," he says. "I feel like I dodged a bullet."