Posted by: GeekHiker | August 14, 2008

That Damned Knee… Again

(Just a side note: this weekend, hopefully, I’ll be writing about something more interesting than this medical drivel…)

First off, can I just say how sick of my knees I am? Of talking about them, feeling them in pain, going to the hospital, writing about them, all of it? I mean, seriously, they really shouldn’t be that front-and-center in my life. I’m this close to changing the sub-head at the top of the page to include “and who has bad knees”.

And yet, here I am, writing about the right knee I felt pain in out on Santa Cruz Island. Again.

Actually, I thought I’d be here yesterday, as that was when my appointment was.

In truth, I held up my end of the bargain. I arrived 10 minutes early, promptly at 3:20 pm. I paid my co-pay. I dutifully waited in the waiting room for a half hour. I headed straight to X-Ray when I was told to and waited for another half hour. I went in to spend 20 minutes on the X-Rays, various angles on my right knee. By this point it was closing in on 5:00.

And, right as the last X-ray was being processed, down came a guy from Ortho to tell me that the doctor had gone home, and I would have to come back tomorrow. In other words, I would have to take off yet more time from work to return to finish my appointment.

I was, needless to say, pretty pissed. Not at the tech from Ortho: he was just delivering a message. Not at the X-Ray tech: it wasn’t his fault he was the only guy working and had nine cases backed up. Not at the Ortho receptionist who set up my Thursday appointment: how could it be her fault? I was pissed at the doctor who couldn’t bother (and, of course, I was assuming he couldn’t bother) to stay an extra few minutes.

I was angry. I drove home angry. I’m not a big fan of people wasting my time, particularly when you consider what I pay into my healthcare every year.

But the evening was saved when I arrived home to find that blogger friend Just A Girl had mailed me a present for my birthday all the way from The Great White North Canada. Appropriately enough: a book entitled “How to be a Canadian“. I think she secretly wants me to start adding extra “u”s to my words, i.e. “colour”. 😉 Whatever, I cracked up when I pulled the book out of the envelope; it was just the tonic I needed.

I digress. So back it was to Ortho today, where I (finally) got to meet with the Orthopedics P.A. and, as much as I’d wanted to, really couldn’t get pissed at the guy for two reasons: 1) he knew what he was talking about and answered all of my questions (I tend to ask a lot of questions) and 2) he told me the way and number of appointments the hospital schedules for him, which can really only be described as fucking insane.

He looked at the X-rays and told me all about what he was looking for on each one. He took my history and complimented me on the amount of detail I recalled. He examined the knee and diagnosed the problem: plica syndrome. Sounds scary, no?

I was given two options for treatment: a conservative approach (anti-inflammatory drugs + ice massaging + rest) or the aggressive approach (a cortical shot directly to the plica). I decided to try the former first and see what happens.

So, the bad news: no kneeling, bending, hiking, biking, etc., etc., etc. for the next few weeks. This is one of those cases where being an active guy actually works against me. Upper body workouts only at the gym. Ice-massaging three times a day. No moving computers at work, that’s for damn sure. Between all of that the inflammation should, slowly, go away.

The good news: this is an inflammation of the plica, and that’s the only problem. Everything else in the knee (ligaments, cartilage, etc.) are fine, which means there’s no permanent damage. I’m scheduled to go on a backpack in a couple of weeks and have a regimen that should allow me to do so: anti-inflammatory drugs starting the week before, through, and after the backpack, combined with wearing an (insanely tight) knee brace during the trip. Of course, none of that will guarantee that I won’t be in pain, but it should work.

And when I’m screaming bloody murder at the heavens and saying “I should’a gotten the shot”, I will make sure to remind my camp-mates that they must chant “we told you so” in unison.

So there it is: I’m off the trail for a couple more weeks, then one backpack, then off again until the problem goes away, however long that takes.

Typing that, just now, I actually got a little depressed. I hope I heal quickly.

The thought of being off the trail for too long is more painful than the knee itself.



  1. Aww stink. Darned needed knees.
    I have a bag of blueberries that I use for icing after runs. They recommend sitting in a tub of cold (icy really) water but I am without tub so miss that madness.

    I don’t want you to add extra letters…I just want you to spell well. None of this flavor, check and neighbor because the right spelling is flavour, cheque and neighbour! 😀

  2. Waiting at the doctor’s office just sucks.

    Though I’m glad it isn’t anything serious – you’ll be back on the trails before you know it, my friend.

    And remember – patience is a virtue 🙂 One I’m continuing to work on, so I’m well aware of how hard it is.

  3. Well, but every thing’s healthy! I mean, the plica is pissed with you, but I would be if I was put through all that work, so, yay!

    Hope that trip doesn’t complicate everything, cause THAT would suck.

    And yeah, medical services are something crazy, just thinking about it stresses me.

  4. I agree with Narami. Be careful with that backpack trip. It is surely annoying to be off trail for a few weeks, but if it worsens, the recovery time will be longer.

  5. …an exercise in patience. I would have opted for the shot!

  6. Couple of things you might want to think about when you get back on your feet.

    The problem with running shoes and hiking boots is that the heel stabilizers wind up putting a lot of torsion on the knee. Of course you probably aren’t going to start hiking barefoot, but there are a couple of things you might try.

    I’ve found Superfeet insoles to be very helpful in preventing knee pain and helping me recover when I’ve overdone it. You can find them at REI or Sports Chalet. They have “testers” so you can try them out. I’ve got them in all my shoes now.

    Also, barefoot running, preferably on grass, is very helpful. I wear Vibram Five Fingers, sort of a cross between toe socks and a water shoe. Nike also makes a sort of “barefoot” running shoe. I think New Balance might as well. You might want to consider these if you run the treadmill at the gym.

  7. I don’t care how great the doctor is, that doesn’t give him any special pass to leave when he has a patient! Who has an appointment! And showed up on time!!! I’m so livid, I can’t even form a coherent rant right now. Be back later.

    Oh, but glad everything is okay. Well, relatively okay.

  8. Aaaagh, don’t do the shots! Really. Do you know how BAD that crap is for you? But you know, whatever. I totally hear you on the doctor thing, for sure, it has to be one of my many BIGGEST annoyances!

  9. I am so glad that the problem with your knee is absolutely treatable. It sucks that you have to stay off of it for a while, but at least this will fix it. Also, getting a diagnosis is more than half the battle in my opinion. Once you have something pinned down, treatment is just a matter of follow through.

    I could type pages of visious, angry ranting on the subject of our health care system and the treatment of patients. I will, however, curb that impulse and simply say: Your doctor is a complete asshat. Oh and I second everything Dingo said.

  10. I think Dingo needs some of your anti-inflammatory drugs. She seems a little inflamed.

    How awesome would it be if your next step was going for the bionic plica? Then you could run up hills like no mere mortal can; do squat thrusts at hyper speed; hold the chair pose in yoga for hours! It could be grand…and I don’t even know what a plica is (I didn’t plick the clica link or click the plica link.) 😛

  11. P.S. We all want to know about the 29 year old.

  12. I’ll trade you 2 of my heavy duty anti-inflammatory pills for your two! LOL, welcome to my world!

  13. Okay.

    A: For some reason, thinking/talking about knees totally skeeves me out. It gives me a big FAT case of the heebie jeebies. (Maybe because one of mine got jacked up in jr high and has clicked ever since.) Bleecch!

    B: I pushed through my initial heebie jeebies so I could read your entire post.

    C: It SUCKS that they made you come back for more torture….I feel for the Ortho PA a little, but think that somebody needs to tell the “Powers that Be” to renovate their effing scheduling system. Cuz it blows.

    D: I’m sorry you have to be on the bench…but I’m glad it only a PissedOffPlica and not something requiring the words “anesthesia” and “orthoscopic”.

    E: Keep your chin up, Little Camper. You’ll be out and about in no time!!

  14. Just A Girl – A tub? I could never do that. All those unnecessary letters… 😉

    East Coast Teacher – Yep. I hope so. It’s true, patience is a virtue, but the hike is in only a couple of weeks!

    Narami – True, no permanent damage. I hope so to; I plan to treat myself very nicely. I’m sure it stresses everybody!

    Gani – Thanks, I will.

    AA – Well, that’s the next step.

    Phil – I’ve been using SuperFeet for years. I prefer the green ones; I tried the orange ones once and they were the most painful things I’ve ever worn. Haven’t tried the barefoot running, though, so I’ll have to consider that…

    Dingo – The problem, of course, is not the doctor. It’s the system. And who does one yell at when the problem is the entire system?

    Kori – I do, but the final alternative (surgery) sounds worse!

    Rachel – True, much better to know exactly what’s going on. See what I said to Dingo, but I disagree: the doctor is just a cog in a system that shoves him too many patients, and schedules only 20 minutes for each!

    Mel Heth – LOL. I wouldn’t mind bionic knees at all. Check out the link, it’s pretty interesting.

    Mel Heth – I know.

    Dobegil – Heh, sounds good!

    Ms. H – A. I understand. B. I appreciate it. C. Yeah, but I don’t think they’re listening. D. I agree. E. Thanks!

  15. You know what you should do? Go back to school and become a doctor. Then when your Ortho comes to you, you could ditch him! Sweet.

    JaG: Wouldn’t a Canadian spell it ‘tuub’?

  16. your doctor sounds awesome. i had x-ray and MRI on my knee, and they wouldn’t even go over the results with me. all i got was a piece of paper with one-liners on it (“excess fluid”, “shows signs of chondromalacia”) … it was very not helpful

    rest up! and take ibuprofen!

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