Recently I was amused to discover my story being discussed here, among what appears to be a group of Australian triathletes. Many were dismissive.
The criticisms of the writing at this site (“so annoying”, “punishing to read”, “I could not make it through the first two paragraphs of that guys blog”), well, what can I say? I try not to be insufferably dull, or frightfully obvious, but look: I never promised you guys Faulkner. Remember, I write most of this at work, during my lunch break. :)
The other criticisms were familiar. One went along these lines:
Great, the guy rested his knees, gradually went back to a pain-free activity (walking), and got better. Whoop dee doo. Seems like common sense to me. Listen to your knees, time heals, be patient, yadda yadda. Not gonna blow 10 bucks on that book, mate.
Well, sometimes common sense can be surprisingly uncommon. But it’s not like you can sit around and rest for two weeks, then start a walking program, and a year later -- presto! -- you’re all better. Beating knee pain is much, much trickier than that. (I won’t rehash all the obstacles to getting better; here’s my latest summary on what I did.)
One quick example: “Listen to your knees” won’t work if you don’t account for the “delayed symptom” effect. When I felt miserable because my knees burned all the time, I would’ve happily paid someone $20 for an explanation of how that works, as it shows the damnable difficulty of listening to your knees the right way. (Most people, I think, “listen to their knees” the wrong way -- if the knee hurts during an activity, or right after, don’t do the activity. I never would have healed had I remained at that basic level of understanding.)
The other criticism (the one I really want to write about) goes like this:
The guy’s a financial journalist. Give me a break. You’re taking advice about how to heal your bad knees from some journalist who just surfed the Internet for a while. Good luck with that!
Ah. So the degree from Harvard merits no love. ;) (Okay, okay, it’s in government, not in orthopedics.)
Anyway, anyone about to write me off as someone blogging about things that he can’t possibly know about should consider the following:
(1) I quite regularly cite experts, and clinical studies, to support what I say. Much of what I believe comes straight from these sources.
It’s not like, in Joseph Smith-like fashion, I had a miraculous revelation of how to heal bad knees. Hell no. I did a lot of high-quality reading.
The same clinical studies your orthopedist has access to, I managed to dig out of the crevasses of the Internet. And while your orthopedist might have read the study once, I maybe read it five times. Because I had a lot at stake. I simply couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my life with chronic knee pain.
I found experts -- minority voices, true, but very intelligent people -- who suggested a better way than that espoused by traditional physical therapists. People like Doug Kelsey, and recently, doctor Scott Dye. The gist of their thinking was pretty much common sense. Instead of focusing on your quads, hips, butt (or whatever seems too weak or too tight or out of balance), you need to slowly improve the health of your knee joints, so they can comfortably tolerate greater and greater loads.
(2) If you’re the type that emphasizes degrees and qualifications above all, well, it’s not like you're listening to an illiterate street sweeper opine about the best way to do open-heart surgery.
For more than two decades, I’ve been a professional journalist. Every day, we journalists read and analyze and synthesize disparate bits of information from a multitude of sources. By occupation, and often by nature, journalists are reasonably bright generalists with some talent in using language well and precisely.
Now, admittedly, Saving My Knees isn’t only me writing as an objective journalist. The subjective me is present throughout, because it’s unabashedly my story. But I did try to choose my words carefully, and at the book’s conclusion, I undertook a weeks-long checking of facts, line by line, to ensure the material was accurate.
(3) The traditional view held by a majority of experts can be wrong. They’re only human, after all.
Image this conversation at Ye Olde Boar’s Head, say from the year 1820.
Nathaniel: Abigail! How are you?
Abigail: (coughing) Not so good. Still the pneumonia.
Susan: But surely you have been seen by a doctor.
Abigail: Yes, just this week, Doctor Perkins. He advised bloodletting.
Susan: And what were the results?
Abigail: (looking guiltily away) I don’t know. I didn’t have it done.
James: Monstrously stubborn woman you are, Abigail Smith! Perkins is the third physician to advise bloodletting for your pneumonia. And you refuse to listen. I have little sympathy for you, ignoring modern medical thinking. Everyone knows bloodletting is the best way to cure pneumonia. Why such obstinacy, woman?
Abigail: Well, I was talking to Horatio Adams, and he professed the belief that bloodletting was probably useless for pneumonia. He said a few doctors he’s spoken to are questioning the practice. He cured his pneumonia, he said, without bloodletting.
Susan: Horatio Adams! My goodness!
James: Horatio Adams, who writes for the Gazette, all those gasbag stories about how many tons of flax and tea moved through the port over the past month!
Abigail: Yes, he explained everything to me, the research he’s done --
James: Poppycock! Don’t listen to a financial journalist who tells you bloodletting is useless for pneumonia. Listen to your doctors, woman!
Susan: Bloodletting useless for pneumonia? What a crazy idea.
Okay, obviously I’m having some fun here.
The bottom line is this though:
At the end of the day, I could be completely wrong about everything I believe about healing bad knees. But so could the experts. It’s happened before.