VMO Spotting

My VMOs are strapped. The white strapping is to support my patella.

Spot the injury? Easy!

VMO spotting has become my latest hobby. My non-functioning vastus medialis oblique, the inner quad muscle that has been causing all my grief, has given me a keen eye to spot well-developed and functioning VMOs. When ever I see a particularly rippling specimen, I swat who ever is next to me and point it out in sheer admiration (okay, maybe more in jealousy). The problem? Usually it’s me getting spotted but for all the wrong reasons.

It’s hard to hide all my strapping in 35 degree summer heat. Training and living in anything longer than shorts is suicide so my strapping, in all it’s glory, is in plain sight for anyone to see. Knee surgery? Car accident? Racing crash? Did I fall off a cliff? If I had a penny for every time someone asked what was wrong with me, I’d be able to buy a new set of legs.

The whole problem isn’t really the asking, however, it’s that the explanation is actually pretty boring. When I tell people it’s all from muscle imbalance and that my VMOs don’t work they seem particularly underwhelmed and unimpressed. The amount of strapping apparently doesn’t match up to the wimpy explanation that nothing major really happened and my VMOs just kinda eased into malfunction. In an effort to lessen disappointment, I explain how when the VMO doesn’t do it’s job to stabilize the patella, my knee cap gets pulled out of joint. “It can be quite painful,” I finish with but usually people are still dissatisfied. They obviously haven’t been stranded 5km into a 10km run with patella femoral syndrome, hobbling around in pain desperately looking for cell coverage to call for a lift home, but whatever.

My arsenal: k-tape, hypafix, zinc oxide tape, elastomesh, scissors.

My arsenal: k-tape, hypafix, zinc oxide tape, elastomesh, scissors.

What’s all the strapping for then? Well, the pink kinesiology tape offers support to my VMOs to help them do their job of stabilizing my knee. The three layers of white strapping manually place my knee cap toward where it is supposed to be so that it isn’t pulled out place every time I take a step. The fishnet stockings? Not for good looks but the elastic mesh helps keep all the strapping on, especially while I’m training in the heat.

I’m hoping after another month of rehab that I will be able to ditch the billboard that is my strapping but I have a sneaky feeling the accompanying sun of the 35 degree heat will leave it’s mark in the form of some interesting tan lines.

2 responses to “VMO Spotting

  1. Hello Sarah. How is your VMO a knee now? Did you regain full strength of VMO and are you no longer using taping? Which exercises helped you the most? I hope you are ok, I am dealing with weaken VMO and it causes me a lot of knee problems and pain.

    • Hi JJ,

      My knees are great now but I did rehab for about a year. During that year I had weekly physical therapy, I wore almost constant taping, and did daily rehab exercises. My training load was minimal and I build up very gradually (I started with only 15m of easy cycling and 1min jog/4m walk intervals on grass…times were when my pain would start). After about a year I started back on a normal training load and tapered off physio but to this day I still include key exercises weekly. I still sometimes have a tinge of pain here and there but usually it goes away after a minute or if it feels funny (I learned what bad twinges felt like) I take a day off or an easy day in the pool.

      I couldn’t flex my vmo in an isolated movement so I had to start there. Just sitting on the floor trying to flex just my VMO alone…took a while. Other key exercises were focused on glute activation. Brigdes, bum clenches, flamingo stands, adduction/abduction or exercise band crab walks, body weight squats, and one-legged balancing were exercises I felt were very beneficial.

      I did also see a podiatrist. He gave me insoles. Not orthotics, just a wedge under my shoe insoles. That made a big difference with pain and I think helped my VMO to do it’s job. But every body is different so that could just be me but it was a key part of my recovery.

      My biggest advice is to seek help (which is hard to find) but having the right diagnosis is key (for me, weak gluten were just as much to blame as a weak vmo). Second is patience. It’s a long process. It’s tedious. And it’s not glamorous. If you want long term sustainable results though, you just have to do the hard yards.

      I hope that helps. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.


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