Does it hurt?” he said. He said, then looked horrified at my rolling on the floor in hysterical laughter. But what was he talking about?
Does It Hurt?
I have had problem with my right knee for a long time. And it all started thanks to a puppy!
I Fell Over Barnie
We had a puppy called Barnie. As he started to get a bit bolder and more obedient we would let him off the lead. He had a habit of running around outside like a maniac when we first let him off before falling in line to walk with us. Sometimes he would do circuits round the house over and over again. And one day he ran right in front of me as I was walking uphill and I tripped over him. I didn’t hit the ground but something in my knee snapped and I felt it go. “Does it hurt?” said Barnet Boy, who was rewarded with a glare! Of course it hurt!
My knee was very quickly swollen and painful. The doctor said I had torn a ligament and would need to rest it. So, painkillers and ice packs.
My Knee Improved
My knee improved after a month or so, but there was still some residual pain. It was particularly sore climbing stairs or walking uphill. I was learning Tai Chi and the knee would affect my balance and ability to do some of the moves. Over time though, with daily practice, my knee did strengthen though I never lost the soreness. The right knee was always slightly weak and would ache in bed at night.
I Had A Bad Fall
A few years later BB was in the UK and I was doing some tidying up in the house, as you do. I walked into the dining room carrying a pile of things in my arms. My foot slipped on the step down into the room. I was recovering that but unfortunately, while staggering, tripped on a rolled up rug on the floor that I had put in there moments before. That was it, I remember flying through the air and I hit the stone floor with a horrible thud. Part of me fell on the rolled up rug but my right knee hit the floor with all my weight. I lay there for a moment feeling sick. I also remember knowing that I had done myself some serious damage. And I was alone in the house.
A Big Problem
Having managed to get up, I elevated my leg and slapped on an ice pack. I thought I had got away with it, but the next morning my knee was swollen and black. Unfortunately I had to pick up BB at the airport but he then drove me straight to the doctor. The doctor took one look and asked, you guessed it, “does it hurt”. He then sent me to hospital as an emergency. No x-rays, strangely. I had to see a vascular doctor who did various tests that showed blood clots floating in my veins – thrombosis! And signs of infection too.
That led to weeks of having my leg elevated, ice packs, pain killers and heparin injections. And boy was that fun as I had a reaction to the heparin! For five days I had to go twice a day to have intramuscular antibiotic injections. I was in so much pain and could hardly walk, it was a dreadful time. And it left me with a lot of weakness and ongoing pain in that knee.
Seeing A Knee Specialist
A year or so later, even though everything healed up and went back to ‘normal’ the pain got to the point where it was keeping me awake at night. Sometimes I needed to walk with a stick. My doctor referred me to a knee specialist to investigate further.
There was a very thorough examination. It started with an interview with the specialist who took a medical history, asked me about symptoms and examined my knee. During the examination he bent and flexed my knee and at various points I shrieked. I shed a few tears at one point and he uttered the famous words “Does it hurt?”. He wasn’t entirely sure how to cope with my hysterical laughter!
He sent me for x-rays and scans. I had to do a full assessment of how I walked, how I stood, how I climbed stairs etc. And then I had to see the specialist again for the results.
The tests showed that my knee has been broken at some point. Presumably the bad fall in the dining room?. I knew they should have taken x-rays. There was tendonitis, bursitis, ligament lesions, arthritis and a ruined meniscus. “Is that all?” I asked. He wasn’t sure how to take my English sense of humour. The pain was because bone was rubbing on bone. Lovely! The specialist said that sometime down the line I would need a knee replacement but I was a long way from that yet. Treatment involved an insert in my shoe to correct my posture, painkillers, anti-inflammatory treatment and physiotherapy.
Unfortunately the treatment for the knee caused more problems elsewhere. Isn’t that often the way? I had to abandon the shoe insert after a few months because although it was helping my knee it was making my hip really painful. It turns out that was arthritis too. The exercises that I was given to do caused too much strain on my abdomen which caused yet other problems and landed me with a trip to the hospital thanks to my auto-immune disease problems. You couldn’t make this up!
These Boots Were Made For Walking
My Mum found an advertisement for a private clinic that could help with correcting posture. It claimed to help with knee and hip pain. Another long (and expensive) set of tests and exercises leading to them giving me some specially adapted boots to wear for so long each day. I could only wear them for a few minutes at a time to start with as they made me feel strangely dizzy! Eventually I could wear them for an hour at a time. Unfortunately, though they did help with my knee pain they caused pain in my lower back and hips and in the end I had to give up on those!
Seeing A Sports Injury Specialist
Then someone suggested seeing a sports injury specialist which I did, clutching all my test results. He gave me yet another painful examination and said my meniscus was not without hope. It was torn but not completely wrecked. He agreed a knee replacement wasn’t necessary though he thought a small surgery to clean up the area as there was a floating bone fragment might be worth doing. I decided against the surgery as it was a ‘might be worth doing’ rather than ‘necessary’.
I was given some much simpler weight bearing and flexing exercises to do which really did help my knee over time. This was combined with Tai Chi and using a machine that provides electrical muscle stimulation. The machine contracts the leg muscles and stimulates blood flow. Finally, something made a difference!
So Does It Still Hurt?
Tests in hospital 18 months ago included xrays on my joints and showed them all arthritic. I was advised to take regular pain killers. But I started taking a natural anti-inflammatory (tumeric and black pepper recommended by a friend) and that has really helped with my joint pains generally. I use painkillers when I really need them. Today I still have some issues with the knee, though completely manageable. I can’t walk upstairs carrying anything heavy as it makes my knee hurt. I take walking up stairs carefully anyway, as with walking uphill, so as not to put any strain on it. If I push shopping trolley my knee will ache for days afterwards. I used to get round that by BB doing all the trolley pushing but in the days of COVID only one of us is allowed in the supermarket.
But I can walk for miles on the flat without any problems. I even managed to prune the olive trees this year without any major problems. I just have to be careful not to do too much twisting and turning with that leg. The main time I still get issues is in bed of all things. Sometimes I wake up and I have moved in my sleep and got my knee into an uncomfortable position and it is really uncomfortable to straight it. And the cold weather in winter can make it ache.
But does it hurt? Not so much anymore thank goodness!
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!