This blog, in aggregate, is a lot of words.
Me talking about stretching. About structuralists. About glucosamine. About hope, despair, and all sorts of feelings in between.
Sometimes I like to cut through the verbiage and get back to the simplest, most basic question a first-time visitor will have about my recovery from chronic knee pain.
How did you do it?
My shortest answer is that I followed this prescription:
The proper amount of appropriate motion.
Now here’s the unpack of that phrase, starting at the backend.
Motion means moving. It doesn’t necessarily mean exercising. “Exercising” is a loaded word that conjures up images of buff fitness freaks. It also suggests vigorous activities that may not be good for weak knees.
“Appropriate” is a significant modifier because there are lots of activities that I don’t think are suitable for people with weak knees. They include many low-repetition exercises aimed at strengthening the quadriceps muscles in the front of the thigh. My knees weren’t strong enough for such exercises (in some cases, where the knee pain isn’t too bad, your joints may be able to handle them).
To get enough “appropriate” motion, I considered three options: (1) something in the water (2) easy cycling (3) easy walking. Why those three in particular? They’re all gentle on the joints and good for doing high repetitions.
(1) was out -- water simply wasn’t convenient enough, plus I had some knee problems while moving about in a swimming pool. (2) didn’t work either -- I had messed up my knees cycling and they protested when I tried even easy spinning. That left (3). I built a recovery plan around appropriate motion that my knees liked: walking.
Now, what about those two words, “proper amount”? Why are they important?
Because there will be a sweet spot of the right amount of motion for your knees -- not so much that they get worse, but not so little that they fail to improve. Determining where that sweet spot is will be a difficult thing -- no sugarcoating here -- unless you’re working with a smart physical therapist who actually believes in measuring what kind of load your knee can tolerate (as Sports Center in Austin does) and who designs a program around that.
Warning: I’m aware of very, very few physical therapists that do such a measurement, in a scientific and quantitative manner. This is one reason why I think, for chronic knee pain, we’re still in the Dark Ages.
Further complicating matters, that “sweet spot” of motion is somewhat of a moving target. You must occasionally push your knees to meet more demanding tasks, to ensure they keep getting stronger. Figuring out how much, and how often, to push is yet another challenge.
All these challenges demand a sustained, concentrated effort at healing. Use tools that help you monitor progress and maintain consistency, such as a knee journal and pedometer. And be prepared to experiment, in a smart way. All of this I did -- and I got better, even after a doctor told me I never would.