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Solving Knee Pain: What Is and Isn’t Working

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

What You do vs WHo You AreI knew I was facing at least two knee surgeries. What I wasn’t sure of was when. My plan was to stave off the knife and downtime for sometime in the next decade. (Read part one of my knee saga via this link). Turns out my right knee– the formerly “good” one– and two orthopedists have a different, sooner, hustle up, and “get the surgery over with” plan.

All the knee rehab in Santa Barbara is not going to repair two torn menisci. (I tore them teaching my Forever Fit Cardio class. I think the left knee got fed up pulling the load for the right, arthritic one and fired itself from overachiever duty mid-mambo).

Bad Timing of Rest vs Action

However the knee rehab and other protocols I have been trying ARE helping address the osteoarthritis. I am learning more every day about what a lifetime of being active, teaching fitness, and having a high pain threshold can do to knee joints. That last aspect — having a high pain threshold — does not pair well with thinking I can tough out any pain or solve swelling with ice and movement then ice and movement then ice and movement. Did you see the word “rest” anywhere in there? I kinda skipped that phase. Yeah, that lying around, not doing cardio and not teaching exercise part is hard for me. I fear that rest will lead to lethargy and the start of the end. And I don’t want freedom of movement to end. Anyway, ……

If you are also suffering from knee pain or wanting to avoid having knee issues, then limp along with me through some 7 discoveries.

  1. Straighten KneesSimple habits may be making your knees worse. For example, when sitting, do you tuck your legs under your chair? Oops. According to Rick Kaselj’s Fix My Knee Pain program (which I am following and encourage you to buy and try as well), those of us with knee problems are better served to extend our legs when sitting. So simple, but I had not known that!
  2. Physical therapy really does help … if you actually do the exercises! When I am at the physical therapist’s I overhear other patients through the non-soundproof curtains. Almost everyone in the areas next to me confesses to not keeping up with their rehab homework. I have been super faithful about doing my PT every day. While PT cannot heal the menisci tears, it does help with all the surrounding structures. For sure it is helping both with the current symptoms AND the causes. Knowing the causes of my knee issues is critical as I don’t want to go through surgery to repeat bad patterns.
  3. The chondroitin powder I am taking does not seem to be doing much. Everyone else I talk to swears by some sort of glucosamine or chondroitin. I will give this approach another month, then reasses.
  4. Indoor cycling as a substitute for step class is hit and miss. Sometimes I can ride and ride with no downside. Other times, my knee starts to hurt in minutes and swells up. Yes, I keep the tension low both times. Staying motivated to cycle on my own is hard for me as I prefer to work out with people, cues, and group energy.
  5. 20140829_115158Pool activities are Sah-weeet! When Alexandra and I were presenting wellness sessions at Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite last weekend, I put myself through my own aerobic workouts in their pool. I got to go for it without aggravating my joints. So happy! Note to world – aqua aerobics is not a little old lady workout! It’s a way to add intensity without impact. And thanks to a nice neighbor who has a pool and generous heart, I am going to implement more water works … once her pool is a leeetle warmer.
  6. Water is your joints’ friend. Drink lots.

Sitting By Choice or By Necessity

My hope is to get this arthroscopic procedure scheduled asap, so I can get back at it asap! (Do you hear me, insurance people. Get those approvals rolling, please!). When the doctor told me I could stand for only 10 minutes per hour, I had to rethink my whole mindset. As a fitness professional, I know our nation sits too much and moves too little. But we all tend to be around those who are like us – similar values, habits, activities. (Hot tip — if you want to be more active, hang around active people). So I don’t interact with too many sedentary people. I have to admit, these two weeks of limited, painful movement is not making me more compassionate. It’s making me more uncomprehending of those who can move but choose not to.

Oh, and tip 7strengthen both your core and your glutes if you want to help your knees. Thinking that quad strength alone will protect those needy knees is too limited.

Bonus Tip: Read our posts, “Knights Who Say “Knee” and “What Can You Do When Your Joints Ache and Holler” for more knee solutions.

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