This year an old injury has surfaced. As an adolescent, I dislocated my kneecap – this was back in the ’80s. In those days, they placed a large, heavy cast from ankle to thigh to allow “healing” to take place. When the cast came off about 8 weeks after, I was never sent to rehabilitate the injury. Instead, the doctor sent me off by saying, “do a couple of these” (he was performing a straight leg raise). I was 13 years old – I didn’t – “do a couple of these.”
Protocols have changed since then; in that case, a rigid cast causes more damage to the surrounding structures by weakening them. I was sent off into a future of activity in a vulnerable condition. Fast forward over two decades, and after a lifetime of intense training, my knee is now facing debilitating hardship with no remedy besides surgery.
Through the years, I was aware of the instability in my knee. I was at peace, being strong in my dysfunction. I was at peace living with instability that I could tweak with therapeutic exercise and massage. Feeling great, I took up running. I was unaware of the micro, internal damage to my horribly misaligned patella. My kneecaps are frog-eyed (laterally displaced) and easily subluxate (jump out of track), the left one even more so because of the injury. Visually, you could see a misalignment. I learned to accept that. With routine exercise and stretching, I felt strong.
This year was a game-changer. My knee suddenly collapsed. Downhill spiral – chronic inflammation, constant instability, pain – my symptoms seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Though that wasn’t so. Vulnerable structures were being damaged slowly throughout the years. To add to the symptoms, I experienced a meniscus tear. I believe this happened because my knee joint was in such a debilitated state. This all began in April of this year. I knew my knee was deathly ill and couldn’t fix it with exercise and stretching.
In hindsight, I should have visited the orthopedic sooner. A year or two prior, I noticed my knees reacting quicker to demands placed on them. They inflamed faster and took longer to recover, my patella looked even more displaced, and my knee joint kept jamming mechanically. All signs that warranted a visit to the orthopedic. I’m a fitness trainer and massage therapist and couldn’t follow the advice I give clients. Easier said than done.
With less than mediocre insurance and two small kids – and their own small lives I’m responsible for – it took a lot of work to prioritize me. It was challenging to spend the energy on being my own advocate. I should have questioned the physical therapist more. I should have acted sooner. With today’s medicine and new therapies, I might have been able to provide my knee with more time before surgery had to be considered.
I’m sharing this to encourage someone to seek help for their chronic condition and not hesitate to ask their doctors to elaborate on or explain their diagnoses. Strongly advocate for your health, educate yourself on your condition, and seek answers. Only be at peace with dysfunction by exhausting all your options and taking preventative measures.