Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Importance of Taking Charge of a Plan to Improve

I’ve written about this before, but I really think a turning point is when people with bad knees take charge of a plan to get better.

With a chronic condition, people often go through the same maddening series of doctor and specialist visits and receive the same unsatisfying answers. Day to day, the symptoms improve a little, then worsen, then improve, then worsen, and on and on. You don’t seem to be going in a particular direction -- except down, though slowly. You feel helpless, like a leaf being tossed about in a tempest.

This is a terrible place to be. It’s where most knee pain sufferers find themselves. Eventually, they say with a shrug, they’ll just get a total knee replacement.

Contrast this with having a goal -- healing your knees and having a plan to get there. It may be a four-month plan. It may be a four-year plan. It may be an eight-year plan. It may be a plan that turns out to have more curves and changes in direction than a mountain switchback road. Still: It’s a plan. There is a goal. That’s better than being a leaf thrown about by a random gust of wind.

To me, this is so important. This is the common thread among all the inspiring success stories I know about beating chronic knee pain. At the center of each is a person who refuses to go quietly into the night and throws himself/herself into some kind of program to improve.

I also believe that taking charge of the plan to heal greatly improves your outlook. Imagine you develop constant, nagging knee pain in March. You see doctors and physical therapists during the year. But they don’t really help and some days you feel better, some days worse. Now, on Dec. 31, as you look forward to a new year and think about your knees, how do you think you feel?

Probably scared. Uncertain. Fearful that your bad knees will just get worse.

But what if, during that same year, you develop a plan to heal. You’re not sure if it’s the right plan -- but it is a plan. Even if you don’t make a whole lot of progress, I think you’re in a different place mentally on Dec. 31. I think you’re more likely to be hopefully strategizing when you consider the year to come. Your thinking may sound like this: “Okay, I didn’t do as well as I had hoped this year. But I know that A, B, and C are definitely bad for my knees. I can’t do exercises D and E, but the bad knees seem to like F. So I’ll start on a program of G, increasing the repetitions about 10 percent every two weeks, then see where I am by the end of March. If this doesn’t work, I can always try H and I.”

The plan doesn’t need to be of your own devising. A smart physical therapist may help you design it. But you should understand it, own it, be committed to it -- and be willing to change it as soon as you can tell it’s not working. And then you should try something different. The path to healing is not straight, it’s not easy, but I’m convinced there is one.


  1. I have a plan. However sometimes I wonder if it is really going to work. I keep re-adjusting my plan as needed, I've had a few setbacks already, and I'm sure I will have some more. When you have a setback is hard to keep believing in your plan and not to let fear paralyze you. But yeah, at least you have something and you don't feel totally lost (as I felt at the beginning of my injury after visiting a bunch of doctors, you know how it is...).
    Anyway, if I look back, I have improved so I guess I haven't been wasting my time haha.
    I wish the path to healing was straight!

  2. I don't really have a long-term plan to heal. I've had it before. No longer.
    But I have short-term plan every day!!! To make through that day.
    Two years of short-term plans took me back to a normal life as much as possible.

  3. After reading your e-book, i want to make a plan for my knee recovery. But my knees now is swelling so bad, not to mention the pain. I'm being referred to a rheumatologist. It's frustrating. Did you ever experience swelling around your knee area when you had the knee pain?

  4. Swelling wasn't a big issue for me (luckily). I did have some minor swelling at times. If you're being referred to a rheumatologist, your doctor may think you have rheumatoid arthritis. If you do, that's a tricky condition to manage, as it's an autoimmune disorder. Still, finding out whether you have it or not is important, as that will influence what kind of treatment program is appropriate. Best wishes.

  5. I didn't have swelling either. But hey, try to get all the blood tests and check ups done to find out if it's RA or not. Although not all cases are easy to diagnose. I know a few people with RA who have a relatively normal life with their medication and gentle exercise. Keep us posted! All the best