Sunday, November 20, 2016

That “I’m Just Getting Old” Misconception About Knee Pain

As many of you know, I have Google scrape the web daily for news about knee pain. Recently the search turned up a column from the Flathead Beacon, a newspaper out of northern Montana. There are two huge national forests there; it looks like a beautiful place to live.

The writer is a devoted outdoorsman worried about how many more bird-hunting expeditions he has left in his failing knees. “I have become increasingly aware that there’s a hunting life expectancy in this body of mine,” he laments.

He had surgery on the right knee after a marathon quail hunt about 15 years ago. Then the second knee started going downhill, and what can you do? Here’s the money paragraph that had me ready to slap my palm against my forehead:
When knee No. 2 went south this spring, my doctor speculated that I just had joints built in a way that eventually wore out that knee cartilage. Like the right knee, the left seemed to just fail over time. It started aching last spring, after a casual jog with my daughter. It was fine the day of the run, but I couldn’t walk the following morning.
First, I’d get a new doctor. Yes, aging does have an effect on our bodies; that’s undeniable. But properly cared for knees don’t have to wear out over time. More typically, they fall apart because of benign or not-so-benign neglect.

Notice that the left “start aching last spring, after a casual jog.” I don’t know what happened, but a picture comes to mind, of someone attempting a little exercise after a relatively inactive winter and too many holiday treats consumed.

Of course the knee probably wouldn’t hurt during the run; that’s the problem with cartilage. But the next day – oh yeah – you’d feel it, full force. And if it was occasionally unhappy before, that casual trot could be the tipping event that pushes you into the land of chronic misery.

To be fair, the writer seems to understand the crux of the problem:
But the 10 to 20 pounds I’ve been trying to lose since, well, forever, that’s no longer a matter of just trying to look good.
If you’re carrying an extra 20 pounds (most men who say they want to lose 10 to 20 actually need to lose more like 20 to 30), you’re begging for knee trouble. If you do everything right, your knees may be fine. But you’re at risk if you lurch between sedentary and active states. What you need to do is obvious, though hard: Lose weight. That’s one piece of advice no one would dispute.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

That “Come to Jesus Moment” About the Strength of Your Knees

A “come to Jesus moment” (which originally meant that moment when you accept Jesus as your savior) has entered the popular vernacular to represent more broadly an epiphany or a flash of enlightenment.

Have you had your “come to Jesus moment” about the strength of your knees?

Not having this moment, I think, is a great impediment to getting on track with a successful plan of long-term healing.

What happens is you muddle along, believing the right things, doing many of the right things, but they’re all geared for a knee that’s about two or three times as strong as your knee actually is.  You may not realize it, but your progress is constantly being undermined.

It’s all because you don’t realize how weak your bad knee is. So you’re always being careful, but you’re also often outside of your proper “envelope of function.”

When my come to Jesus moment came, I remember thinking: “No, no. My knees aren’t really that weak. It’s impossible. I can’t be that bad.” But then I remember this sick feeling, “Yes they are, and yes you have to accept this. You have to start at the bottom to get to the top.”

That’s when I started walking around a swimming pool every ten minutes. Walking, then resting, walking, then resting. Nothing more strenuous than that. And after a few weeks, I noticed that I was getting better, but at the same time, it was depressing to realize the depth of the hole I was in.

Still, if you ask me, “When did you really get on a  long-term path to healing?”, I would identify walking around that swimming pool as the beginning. The later successes built off that. But to start there, I had to have a “come to Jesus moment” about the strength of my knees.

Have you had yours?