Knees Can Talk

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May 23, 2005 at 2:54 pm

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I walked 2.6 miles in 35 minutes this morning. During the walk, I had my first wincing pain in many, many weeks. I’d gone through a small setback like this early last week, but I didn’t equate the return of pain and swelling with any specific activity.

Today, at least, I know the exact cause and can avoid it in the future.

More on that in a moment.

I am having the classic pains I endured prior to surgery, namely a constant ache from the right (medial) side of my knee, and the lower left (lateral) side of it, towards the underside of the knee. Prior to surgery, I didn’t understand that these pains were due to my torn menisci which act as living shock absorbers in our knees and other joints. Now I recognize both localized areas of pain for what they are — my menisci have been abused and they’re letting me know it.

I should note, especially for any family reading this, that my knee is fine — it’s still strong and stable, and I’m not worried in the least about the graft or my overall healing. This return of pain has an understandable and easily preventable cause, as opposed to my initial injuries that sent me to surgery in the first place. A short recap of those injuries that

addressed: I had a completely torn (severed) ACL, and the MRI also showed a large tear in my medial meniscus which the OS couldn’t repair in surgery. Not all meniscus tears are reparable, in which case the OS usually removes the torn portion to prevent enlargement of the tear. Thus, I have 40% less shock absorption on the medial aspect (right side) of my left knee. In surgery, my OS also found a small tear to my lateral meniscus that hadn’t shown up on the MRI. Thankfully, that meniscus tear was reparable and my shock absorption on the lateral side of the knee is more or less intact. Due to the 40% removal of my medial meniscus, osteoarthritis is guaranteed to develop eventually, but I’ll be older and slower by then and medical science may even have a way to reconstruct cartilage with biological replacements. So far, no known manmade substances have low enough friction to mimic the body’s own cartilage, which has a friction equivalent that’s generally compared to “ice on ice”.

Anyway, why the resurgence of pain and swelling today and earlier last week?

I’d been varying my walking routine a bit, and have done several walks (including today) at a brisk pace on neighborhood sidewalks. The advantage of a neighborhood, particularly a large subdivision, is there’s no shortage of routes and mileage one can work in. The disadvantage is there are countless dips in the sidewalk to allow for each home’s driveway and/or alleyway. So when I’m walking briskly on the sidewalk, only one-third of the time am I actually walking at a proper angle (perpendicular to horizontal vs. at an incline or decline angle to it). This puts abnormally uneven stress and force on the menisci in both knees, and at least this soon post-op, is something my left knee clearly doesn’t like.

I try to walk in the street, but drivers being how they are, it’s not always the safest place to be when there are many cars parked along the sidewalks. So, I’ll be going back to my old routes: actual paved walking trails, which are graded properly for walkers. Neighborhood sidewalks are now off-limits and totally wrong for my knee, at least during exercise walks. Until today, I hadn’t connected any return of pain or swelling to the sidewalk exercise walks. At least I got the message today when my knee let me know it in no uncertain terms!

Anyway, it’s back to rest, ice and elevation for the left knee today. I also had a pretty good hamstring twinge/cramp right when I started walking, but I was a geek and didn’t stretch properly before starting out. I guess my knee’s not done teaching me stuff, it seems.

In related news, here’s some

that may someday prevent people from having to get a hamstring autograft like I did — or any graft at all.

The goal? Total repair by facilitating and stimulating the body’s natural healing response… No titanium screws, no harvests or transplants, just some high tech “goo” to help the body make its own repairs.

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