As you know, Bob, I was diagnosed with chondromalacia of the right patella last week, and the doctor sent me off for physical therapy to shove the damn thing back into place.
Today was my first PT appointment, and apart from the sticker shock (thank God I socked away money for the knee replacement because hoo boy) it went pretty well. My therapist is named Elena and she ran me through my evaluation (turns out I can balance surprisingly well on my left leg) and the four exercises that I will be doing for the foreseeable future, and most likely the rest of my life. Turns out that yes, my patella is all the way off to the outside of my leg and needs to be returned to its proper location. I also have limited range of motion in the knee — can’t bend it or straighten it completely, which doesn’t exactly come as a big horking shock.
But I will start my exercises tomorrow, and for the next three weeks I go in for PT twice a week. Apparently next week I get to try the anti-gravity treadmill, which somehow uses air (yeah, I didn’t understand that either) to reduce my weight to 60% and will help me retrain my brain and body to use a normal gait while walking. She also said that I have decent strength in both legs — it’s just the pain from the misalignment that’s causing me problems. If I can get that fixed, I should be good to go.
The next three weeks will be interesting, especially as I put on muscle at the drop of a hat (I’ve been using KT tape on the knee for the last week, and yesterday I looked down at my legs and saw more definition in my calf muscles because I’ve been walking more). Elena also showed me another way to tape up my knee that urges the patella to come back to its normal position, so I’m going to use that pattern with the KT tape.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if I can actually run someday? Who knows…
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.