Adventures in Orthopedic Medicine
Since I’ve been bitching about this stupid right knee of mine for decades, it seems, I finally made an appointment with an orthopedic specialist to have it evaluated. I’ll be honest with you — I assumed I was looking at a complete knee replacement after having it x-rayed nine years ago and being told, “You know that knee ain’t right.” Even socked away one paycheck to cover the deductible for our insurance and everything.
Well. After a somewhat fraught night (my biggest fear was that they’d take a look at me and say, “Yeah, we can’t operate on you. Come back when you’ve lost fifty pounds”) and an even more fraught morning where I found out that they wanted to move my appointment up an hour and fifteen minutes, I headed off to meet my new doctor. Everyone at the front desk was seriously friendly — point one in their favor. I got shown into an exam room super quickly (point two) while the nurse took a couple of details, then the X-ray tech escorted me off to the X Ray room to take 4 different shots of my knees — front, rear, bent from the side, bent from overhead. The one in this post is from the front, I believe, and my right knee, aka ShitKnee, is on the left side of the image. A layman can tell that there’s something wrong with it.
Then the doctor came in. He was super nice and cheerful, and immediately put me at my ease about everything. We reviewed each of the x-rays, and he told me that I had the normal amount of wear in my left knee for a 54-year-old woman (go me). Then we discussed ShitKnee.
It turns out that the official name for my problem is chondromalacia of the right patella. I have very shallow tracks in both knees for my patellae (“It’s morphological, you got it from your parents,” he said. I replied that my dad had bad knees all his life. “There you go — blame your dad”), and ShitKnee’s patella is way out of alignment with its track. The strain that’s putting on the muscles is causing inflammation and pulling the joint inwards towards my other knee, which also causes mucho pain as I hobble around. To demonstrate what was going on, he was able to gently straighten out my knee with his hands. Mind you, that was not fun by any means, but it proved it could be done.
And then he shocked the poo out of me. He said that replacement surgery was always a last resort, and that a patella problem like mine is the easiest to fix with PT. “I prefer to try a biological solution first,” he said. I agreed that yeah, that would be my preferred method as well. We settled on 6-8 weeks of PT, 2-3 times a week (well, hell, I have the money socked away for the surgery–I can use it for the PT), with a return visit in six weeks to re-evaluate the knee and see what’s going on with it. I cannot adequately describe the intense relief I felt after he told me that. I had resigned myself to getting a knee replacement and learning to live with it, and to hear, “Yeah, no, this can be fixed with PT” was astounding.
One other thing that I really liked about this doctor — he said, “This is not your fault. You could go climb Kilimanjaro tomorrow, if you wanted. It would hurt like heck, but you wouldn’t do any additional damage to the knee.” Translation: my knee problems aren’t due to me being fat. I just have shallow patellar tracks — it’s how they developed in utero. Which makes sense because Dad was always a gym rat and very fit for much of his life, but that didn’t stop him from having shitty knees. I thought was exceptionally kind of the doctor to mention that.
I’ve already picked a place from the list of rehab centers he gave me and made an appointment for next week, and after watching a YouTube video I now have ShitKnee wrapped with a cradle support of KT tape. I have to say, doing that made me a believer — the knee still hurts, but the tape is providing enough support for my patella that I can put my right foot flat on the floor instead of walking on the outer edge towards the ball of my foot (you would not believe the callus I have there). Even better, I was able to make dinner without breaking out into a rolling sweat and having to sit down from the pain, and I may well clean the downstairs bathroom today. Small steps, but they’re moving me in the right direction.