Thursday, May 16, 2013

My Knee and Taking Care of Me

Twenty years ago I was in a car accident in which my left knee was injured. I don't remember exactly what the doctors said was wrong, but I know I had to wear a big cumbersome brace for a while.

Four years ago I was in another car accident in which my left knee slammed into the dashboard. For some reason I didn't get it checked out at the time, though I did see a chiropractor who said she thought I might have a slightly torn meniscus (the meniscus is the disc of cartilage separating the leg bones and cushioning the knee joint). Since then my knee has had some pain, some swelling, some weakness. Stairs, squatting, and kneeling have been especially troublesome.

Three months ago I squatted rather abruptly, and felt a weird pop in my knee. Since then the pain has been worse as has the swelling and weakness.

Two days ago I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my knee. Apparently the accidents and injuries caused the cartilage behind my kneecap to wear down. My kneecap thought "Whoa, that's not cool, I shouldn't be rubbing against those other bones like that... I think I'll grow some bumpy protrusions (called osteophytes) to guard myself." So instead of a nice smooth kneecap, like a paved road, mine is more like a cobblestone road at the back. These bone bumps irritate the joint and cause the inflammation that is arthritis.

I've researched ways to treat arthritis, and my first steps are to apply arnica cream (arnica is a plant with anti-inflammatory properties) daily and to take the supplement SAM-e. These are the two "natural" remedies that seem to have the most success, based on both anecdotal and scientific evidence. I don't want to try too many things at once because I want to know what is working and what isn't. I also don't want to shock my body by introducing a lot of new substances all at once. I will also do the simple exercises recommended by the osteopath.

The osteopath I saw had quite an air of being rushed, and of an expectation to be obeyed. I allowed myself to be slightly bullied into getting a cortisol injection in my knee. Apparently this decreases pain significantly after a week or so, and can last for several months. I wish very much that I had told the doctor that I wasn't comfortable with the shot, and that I would schedule another appointment if I decided I did want it after doing some research. I did ask him if there were any side effects, and he said as long as I'm not allergic to any medications, there would be none. After having done some belated research, that is patently not true.

I have had steroids in the past (as a vapor, for pneumonia) and they caused me some some pretty severe feelings of anxiety. The same appears to be true for cortisol injections. Normally I am very relaxed, very laid back. Since about 6-8 hours after I received the cortisol I have been experiencing waves of anxiety several times a day as well as a constant underlying sense of nervousness. My knee feels no better (though to be fair, they said that would take a week and it's only been two and a half days). My breathing, unless I focus on it, is more shallow and rapid. Unless some miracle occurs in five days, I will never accept another cortisol shot.

I will also honor any feelings of unease that come up for me, and do what I need to do to take the best care of myself possible.

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