At some point, when you have chronic knee pain, you consider surgery or medication to help you through the ordeal. I know I did. I badly wanted my knees to be fixed, or at least, for the pain and discomfort to go away.
Luckily I figured out a natural way to heal (which took a lot longer than an hour-long surgery, but worked better, and didn’t leave me with scars or side effects). Partly I put faith in my body to “figure out” how to get better, if given enough time and gentle coaxing in the right direction (which for me translated into lots of slow, careful walking, with a very gradual build in intensity).
The virtue of a “natural approach” to healing was underscored for me by a recent article in the New Yorker entitled “Germs Are Us.” The tease: “Bacteria make us sick. Do they also keep us alive?”
The article considers the beneficial role played by the thousands of microbes that inhabit our bodies. Buried toward the end is a neat anecdote that serves as a reminder that sometimes a cure doesn’t come at the end of a scalpel or in a bottle of medication.
The story is about, of all things, earwax.
A man was suffering from a chronic infection in his left ear. His doctors were stymied. They tried different antibiotics, antifungal drops. Nothing worked.
Then one day the man showed up at the clinic, smiling. He was fine. “Do you want to know what I did?” he said. His doctors assumed that one of the drugs had finally found its mark.
The ear pain sufferer had taken a piece of earwax from his good ear and inserted it into his bad one. Apparently the bad ear lacked certain good bacteria that arrived on the transplanted earwax, and these microbes promptly went to work (doing whatever they do) and cured him!
Pretty cool, huh?
I’ll admit there can be a mysterious aspect to healing naturally. Something works, but why? Now, I’m a hyper-rational guy, always on the hunt for cause and effect, but maybe there are times you just have to allow that there are things we don’t fully understand yet, and trust that your body can work out problems if given the right conditions.
When my knee pain was at its worst, I remember a few times dropping defiantly into a deep crouch (“Ah screw it, who cares,” I was usually thinking). From the uncomfortable squat, I pushed upward into a standing position. And you would not believe the hideous sound something in or around my knees made. It was like someone ripping a wet sheet of canvas.
I never focused on eliminating that sound. I never even focused on figuring out what it was. Rather, when I was pretty sure I had discovered the right way to heal my knees, I threw myself entirely into that effort and more or less trusted that my problems -- the inflammation, the noisy cartilage, that godawful ripping noise -- would get better, all together.
And they did.
That's pretty cool too.