The Knee Saga

The story so far:

Just before Christmas I did that thing where you’re walking downstairs and you think there’s one more step and there isn’t and your foot hits the ground HARD. It sent pains into my right knee that slowly faded but never fully went away. Some kind of damage to the soft tissue said my osteopath, it will heal very slowly because there’s not much of a blood supply there.

Well I was living with it OK. I could walk, (did six miles over four of the Seven Sisters on the south coast in May) cycle (did a number of 80-100km rides) and swim (occasionally. The Estuary can be cold in the spring) and all I ever noticed was sometimes I’d get a twinge when pushing the bike off from a standstill.

Until June 29th, when literally out of nowhere, in the space of about three hours it went from perfectly normal to something’s not right to I can’t bloody WALK.

And this time it didn’t seem to be fading

Saw the GP who said arthritis and ordered an X-Ray.

Saw another GP (you take whoever you can get at our practice) who looked at the X-Ray and said arthritis and sent me to an Orthopaedic surgeon

The Ortho looked at the X-Ray and said arthritis and ordered an MRI.

And in the meantime between careful cycling (for flexibility) and cautious treatment from the osteopath things were getting a lot better

Now read on.

Saw the Ortho consultant again after having the MRI (Funny thing: he may be The Man but the detailed assessment of the scans on his screen was obviously done by someone else in Radiology; he clearly hadn’t seen them before the consultation)

Confirms his first impressions. Mild to medium osteo-arthritis that’s not going to get any better. Will need a new knee in five years or so. (I suspect this is pessimistic, but there’s only one way to find out, isn’t there?)

I also have a torn medial meniscus, and although the detailed assessment was chock full of technical medical jargon, the word “fragments” leapt out at me. Presumably bits of cartilage floating round the joint.

And apparently some kind of cyst at the back of the knee.

My immediate options are:

Keyhole surgery to clean out the joint. Won’t return me to the staus quo ante but might improve things by 50%. Also, could actually make things worse and of course there are all the risks associated with surgery and anaesthesia. He asked me directly, did I want that and on balance I thought not. He gave the impression he thought it was the right decision. “Avoid the knife if possible.”

A steroid injection to reduce inflammation. We got this close to arranging it before he suggested that he could recommend it to my GP and I could have it done there if I felt it needed doing.

Or, leave well enough alone and see how things develop.

And all the time I was thinking, Things have been improving. I’m almost completely asymptomatic at the moment. I can walk, cycle and swim without pain and it stopped waking me up in the night over a month ago. I only ever notice anything if I try to bend it sideways and how often does anyone not a sportsman do that? It’s actually getting better ( I do–sometimes–strength and flexibility exercises and get ultrasound on it once a month from the osteopath. Something’s working)

I’m going to leave it for now. If I have another flare up like I did in June I’ll go straight back to the GP and, I imagine, start with the steroid. And if that doesn’t work ask them for another Ortho referral for surgery.

What I find interesting is that this only blew up the first time late last year when I landed heavily on the leg coming downstairs, which presumably was when I tore the cartilage. I wasn’t getting any chronic symptoms of the underlying arthritis that I can think of at all. Which is why I have a feeling that five years to a replacement is pessimistic.

I think there’s a few years left in me yet.

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