Sunday, June 19, 2022

On Keeping Up Hope When All Is Dark

When it's pitch black all around, and there is no light source within reach, it can be rather terrifying to say the least.

One impression I got reading recent comments: a lot of people out there are struggling, and they're scared about what an uncertain future holds for them and their hurting knees. They see darkness all around and don't know where the light will come from.

What do you tell people in that situation? Well, first, I must admit to a weakness of mine: I'm not really a rah-rah kind of guy. I'm a poor cheerleader. I'm naturally skeptical and scrutinize and think about claims of knowledge and rightness carefully.

But, in a way, I suppose that makes me a better "cheerleader." I'm not falsely pushing some snake oil. I stand behind things I believe in (but am open to the fact that my beliefs may be wrong, though you have to prove that to me, too).

So what is it important for people to remember when they feel like their life is being ruled by the misery of knee pain, and their plight will never improve?

First, it can get better. Not that it will. You have to work hard at healing knees. There's a lot of sliding around, going forwards and backwards, and sometimes not knowing why, and it becomes hard to resist that temptation to throw your arms up in the air and say, "None of this makes sense; I'll never get better."

Second, the amount of patience you need is truly Job-ian. There are people on this forum who have spent years (and not one or two years either, but a lot more than that) figuring out this puzzle of their knee pain, only to finally triumph (more or less) over it. I'm grateful they're part of this community.

Third, you have to commit to doing something. And that something is movement, of some kind. I really believe that inactive joints are soon-to-be-dead joints. You have to move, but it has to be the right kind, and the right amount. I don't like the gung ho, never-been-injured therapists exhorting patients to push, push, push, and suck up the pain.

Fourth, you need to nurture hope, optimism, belief, like a fragile sprout sunk into a hostile soil. One way to help do this is not to become knee obsessive (says the man who was definitely knee obsessive!). If your mind is in a good place, that will help in healing. Laugh at a comedy. Enjoy a friendship. Tell someone you love them. Get out of your own skin, your own worried mind, for a little while.

Anyway, just a few simple thoughts today. Remember the saying, "it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness." That's what we're trying to do here, light candles. Happy wishes to all!

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Open Comment Forum: What's Everyone Want to Talk About?

I'm throwing things wide, wide open because, for one, there isn't much for me to post about that relates to my own knees.

They continue to be great (knock on wood), especially considering I hit the dreaded milestone that begins with the number "6" this year (believe me, when you get there, you'll stare at yourself in the mirror for a while, saying, "Nah, can't be, really? Seriously? Am I?")

By the way, this winter, after I had a bad Zwift ride on my bike, I decided to do something a bit different for me: training. My idea of "training" has typically been: ride as hard as you can one day, then the next day, take it "easy" by riding not quite as hard but still pretty hard.

This led to the predictable results. I rode hard a lot, in an unstructured fashion, and sometimes was close to that overtrained, burned-out feeling.

I finally got mad at myself after a particularly miserable Zwift group ride that I should've done well on. And I said to myself: "Hey, you were disciplined enough to beat knee pain. You can be disciplined enough to keep to a training schedule that lets your muscles recover, then grow stronger."

My goal was to finish a flat-stage century with the "B" level riders on Zwift. This is no easy thing. They crank out from 2.8-3.2 w/kg for almost four hours. I kind of wondered if my chance to reach this goal had passed, considering I wasn't getting any younger, you know.

But training made a difference: I finished not one, not two, not three, but seven centuries with the Zwift B riders this winter. I'm not dumb enough to think I'm as good as them (sometimes I'd sneak a peek around the pack and most of them had lower heartrates than mine by 10, 15 beats per minute).

You can attain your goals, no matter your age! That includes vanquishing knee pain from your life.

So: How is everyone doing out there? What's the problem you have right now that you need help solving? This is a wonderful little community of problem solvers, I will say, and I've enjoyed browsing through the comment section recently.

Please drop a comment below; I would love to hear from everyone, cheers.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

A Lesson I Hope You Don’t Take Away From My Book

Sometimes I worry that people might take the wrong lessons from my story of overcoming knee pain.

For example, in the book, I discuss my travails with doctors. My experience taught me that doctors are only human, that they sometimes get things wrong, and that you shouldn’t depend entirely on them to pull you through knee pain.

In short, you need to get involved in your own recovery.

I can see though how someone could read about my experience and conclude, “Doctors aren’t that important; you’ll have more success treating your knee pain yourself and not relying on a doctor, who perhaps believes the wrong things anyway.”

I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: Someone with knee pain should always start by seeing a good doctor and listening carefully to what that person advises.

This article that I read recently drove home why that’s so important.

The woman was a 28-year-old nurse who started having pain in her knee. She figured it was a torn meniscus. For a torn meniscus, often surgery isn’t advised, and someone does as well by undertaking a smart program of physical therapy.

She could’ve designed her own recovery program. But first, she went in for an MRI to confirm her suspicions.

It turned out that it wasn’t a torn meniscus. The imaging test found a tumor in her leg that was bigger than a peach. She had osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.

I’ll bet she was stunned. There’s quite a big difference between “torn meniscus” and “bone cancer.”

But had she accepted her own diagnosis, and simply Googled around for a while and found some good exercises for a damaged meniscus, she could’ve delayed her cancer treatment by valuable days.

So if you have knee pain, seeing a doctor should be step one. You might diagnose yourself correctly. But if you don’t, the consequences can be life-threatening.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

When You Find Yourself in a Hole ...

I found myself thinking recently about that piece of advice: If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

What brought that to mind is knee pain among Type A personalities, with whom I share some traits. They tend to be organized, competitive, ambitious.

In cases where they take part in some sport or form of exercise, they do so with more dedication and energy, and that can get them into trouble.

When they find themselves with knee pain, I imagine that many try to do what I did: work around it, deny it, assume it will just go away with a little time and with only minor changes to their workout routine.

Essentially, they've found themselves in a hole, then they keep digging it deeper. At some point, if they're self-aware enough, they realize what's happening and they modify their behavior.

To beat knee pain, Type A and more laidback Type B personalities may need wildly different approaches.

For Type B people with knee pain, the best course of action may be get moving and do more. For Type A people, it may be to do less, to ease up, and that can be a harder prescription to follow for those who are accustomed to putting out maximum effort.

I remember in Hong Kong, trying again and again to ride my bike without getting that awful burning in my knees, and I could never do it. So finally I just told myself: That's it. I am through cycling for now, and maybe forever.

That was really, really tough. But sometimes I think that, to overcome chronic knee pain, the only way you can return to doing what you love is by being willing to abandon it forever.

It's a hard lesson that a lot of Type A people with knee pain learn: A lot of furious, motivated digging just leaves you at the bottom of a bigger hole.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Musing About 'Healthy Joints for Life'

"Knee Pain" left a link in the comments to what looks like (maybe?) a relatively new venture by Doug Kelsey and Laurie Kertz Kelly called "Healthy Joints for Life Institute." She said she attended their informational webinar about an online course being offered and it looks quite good.

Their program is touted as a "joint-first approach," and I can't think of anything better (or more appropriate) for someone suffering from knee pain.

So I started thinking today about how I "met" Doug Kelsey online. "Met" isn't exactly the right word, because during my entire recovery, he had no idea who I was, or that I even existed.

But I knew a lot about him, and what he believed. I can't recall when I first stumbled upon his blog. I'm sure you all know the feeling: you're online, desperately seeking something, anything, that could possibly be a solution for the knee pain that is making your life hellish.

It can be hard to remember exactly when you found a certain research paper, or website that struck you as interesting. If you're anything like I was, you're probably spending hours Googling various search terms and jumping all over the internet.

What I remember about Kelsey though was his optimism, first and foremost. Everyone else, it seemed, was much gloomier about beating knee pain. Bad knees just don't heal was the message. And Kelsey said, in so many words, "Don't believe that crap."

His exercises were different too. I remember being impressed by this concept of using exercise machines that "unloaded" your joint. It made a lot of sense to me. If your knee can't handle daily stresses, if it can't handle exercises like deep knee bends with your full weight being supported, what if that weight were lessened?

What if you could be on the moon, all bouncy and light, without gravity dragging you down so much, and putting so much pressure on your knees?

So his optimism definitely drew me in, but it was the message that convinced me to stick around. He had a lot of good ideas. One of his good ideas (that had nothing to do with knee joints) allowed me to recover from a bad bout of tendinitis that was so severe that on the weekend I got married, back in 2008, I couldn't even sketch lightly using a charcoal pencil without feeling pain. I was a mess.

Today, everything's great (knock on wood; life can change). In recovering from knee pain, I don't like to give advice, partly because I'm not really qualified. But if I were you (knee pain sufferer who is reading this), I would want to work with a physical therapist who believes what Doug Kelsey believes. I think that's the best anyone can do.

Cheers, and hope all are having a good start to the new year!

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Beating Knee Pain: In Praise of Water

I guess that headline could be taken two ways. Drinking water is always good for a water-based organism. But the water I'm referring to here is the kind that you move through: in a swimming pool, lake or ocean.

I'm thinking about water therapy because my wife (who has a bad knee and has put on some weight) just joined a gym. I get my workout on a bike trainer in the basement; she will now go to the pool.

This was her first day. As she was preparing to leave, I shared my usual warning, "Be careful not to overdo it," while feeling quite certain that she would. She got back and said she felt some discomfort in her knee. I'm pretty sure she did overdo it, but I've got my fingers crossed that she didn't go way overboard.

Tomorrow will tell.

Still, I think returning to the water (she likes to swim) will be a good thing for her, and her knee. I tried to get her to ride a spare exercise bike in the basement. She never took much pleasure from that, and I think it was a bit irritating for her knee joint, even though I told her to keep the tension low.

She's definitely more excited about swimming.

I think water activities are great for bad knees, though you still have to be careful. Originally, I thought water would play a much bigger role in my recovery than it did. Probably it didn't because (1) I'm not really a water guy; I never learned how to swim and tend to stand around shivering in the pool (2) The water activities that I could do without aggravating my knees weren't that interesting to me.

In the end, I went the walking route, and as I say in the book, many weeks later I climbed out of the knee pain hole.

But anyone with access to a pool who has knee pain, and who enjoys water, should definitely try a program of water exercises. Linda Huey has some in the book she co-authored, Heal Your Knees, which is available on Amazon.

The buoyancy of water is like having a magic immersion machine that unloads your joints in space. If you're in the water up to your chest, no matter which way you turn, bend, step, jump, you're getting the benefits.

If you prefer to swim, consider wearing floats on your ankles (those same floats that are designed to be worn on the arms), until you're sure that the kicking motion doesn't worsen your knee pain. I used them myself with some success.

Make a splash! Good luck!

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Happy Holidays, My Facebook Policy, and Good Cheer to Share!

We're almost at the end of another year!

First, a quick note about Facebook: If you want to message me there, or friend me there, I wouldn't advise it. I'm trying to get off Facebook as much as possible and rarely use it.

An incident last weekend is one reason why. I clicked a link from a long-ago friend, and it turned out to be a virus. My life is already busy enough without having to fend off Facebook viruses.

Most friend requests, I ignore. Virtually all messages, I ignore. If you want to talk to me ... well, there's this blog, and that's probably the best way.

Happy holidays! We're almost at Christmas, and let me ask you: what are YOU grateful for as this year comes to an end? Me, I'm so happy to have knee pain way behind me in the rearview mirror. It's just a fast-receding speck, and I'm delighted about that.

I'm not so cocky as to think I'll never have knee pain again ... maybe someday ... but this time, I feel like I'm prepared, if I do face that demon again.

So once again: what are you grateful for, in your knee pain battle? No need to say "this blog." I appreciate such sentiments, but I'm really not that needy. 😃

And finally, the good cheer: I was looking through the comments, deleting the junk commercial messages, and I came upon a comment from someone I would never recognize in person, as I've never met her, but that I have a soft spot for nevertheless.

She was here in the early days of this blog, and I admire her courage and perseverance and spirit. I really feel like a slacker compared to her, considering what she has been through. She goes by the moniker "Knee Pain," and she made this comment a week or so ago:

My back story is that I had a very, very long struggle with debilitating knee pain. Previously it was so bad I could sometimes barely walk -- even to the point of using a wheelchair on multiple occasions. But, now my knee is doing so well that I can hike for miles! I can road bike up hills! I can do open water swimming for over a mile. I can do swing dancing and rotary waltzing. In 2020 I started a new hobby of backpacking which you can imagine is very hard on knees, but, I can do it. It's amazing.

Love it! Knee Pain, keep sharing your message of hope and triumph! Everyone else: never give up!

Best,

Richard