Monday, June 14, 2010

Saving My Knees: An Introduction

Welcome to my blog about beating chronic knee pain. I did, after a doctor told me flatly, "Your knees will never get better." It was a long ordeal: I wound up seeing four doctors, two physical therapists. At some point, as weeks turned into months and then into a full year, and their advice and treatment failed to help me, I gave up on them and they gave up on me.

I had constant burning, aching and soreness around both of my kneecaps. The diagnosis was patellofemoral pain syndrome or chondromalacia. I was a hard-luck case with very sensitive joints. At work I had to sit with my legs elevated and extended, my feet propped in a sling under my desk.

When the medical professionals abandoned me, my resolve only stiffened. I wasn't a doctor, but I wasn't dumb either. I had an Ivy League education and more than a decade's experience as a journalist. I began devouring everything related to bad knees and damaged cartilage I could lay my hands on -- scientific studies, blog posts, chapters in medical textbooks, threads on bulletin boards about injuries.

Gradually, I discovered the path to recovery. While doing so, I got very angry because it became clear that a lot of thinking about "patellofemoral pain syndrome" (also known as "runner's knee," among other names) is dangerously bad. I started this blog to tell my story -- of what I learned, of what I did to get better. I also wrote a book "Saving My Knees" that I'll supply more information about later.

I want to challenge what you think you know about healing bad knees. For example, if you have knee pain (or if you're treating someone who does), chances are you believe at least one of the following:
(1) A plan to heal bad knees should focus on strengthening the quadriceps muscles.
(2) Knee pain sufferers trying to recover should make stretching an important part of their daily exercise routine.
(3) Taking glucosamine tablets helps bad knees improve.
(4) Damaged knee cartilage doesn't heal; at best you can prevent it from getting worse.

I think those four statements are false: every single one of them. In future blog posts I'll show you why I think that (and I'll share with you scientific studies that make my points).


  1. Your story has really given me hope, and I'm so glad you decided to share. Here's a similar story of two people overcoming knee pain. It took at least one of them a while to heal...four years!


  2. Hi,

    Took me a while before I found your blog but I am glad I did. I am just turning 35 this year and I already have a meniscus tear on my right knee and a tilted knee and worn out cartilage on both. And I am not even that active. I live in Malaysia - that means I have real limits to doctors whom can help me with recovery without surgery. Every single one I have been too tell me surgery is what i need along with physio that invloves - yeah, you guessed it, quad stregthening. I am also on a course of hyalgan which I can't say has helped much. I definitely live too far away from sports center or doug and I'm wary of doing things without having someone access my condition and tell me whats the way forward. I am now looking at PRP but all doctors here are mostly clueless if not just practising really basic stuff like they inject and then tel you to go home with no advise on follow-up course of actions. So I guess my question is, how will I know the stuff you have in your book will help me considering that each injury is unique. Sorry, I'm reading hope but feeling hopeless. I have been like this for 4 months and counting.

  3. Yes, each injury is unique, and there will be unique aspects to them, but there are broad themes that are applicable over classes of knee injuries. That I believe. But look: I'm not going to try to convince you to buy my book (I'm a bad salesman, I guess :)). I get the sense you may be looking for more specific advice on exercises. You may be better served buying a book like Doug Kelsey's "Runner's Knee Bible." It's here:

    Meanwhile, feel free to check out more of my blog; I think you'll find plenty of thought-provoking material here (served up with a dash of hope!).