- Pumping Irony -

PUMPING IRONY: Knee-Jerk Reaction

My knee has been killing me lately — a result, I’m guessing, of packing and schlepping a houseful of stuff from our former abode to our current home, a project that has occupied me and my family since my last dispatch more than two months ago.

That and ripping carpeting, demolishing (with some regret) a basement full of knotty pine paneling, painting walls, etcetera, etcetera. I’ve been staying away from the gym, until recently, as well, since all of this packing and schlepping and ripping and painting adds up to some pretty brutal workouts (thus the knee problem). My Lovely Wife mentioned the other day that she’s lost more than 10 pounds since we embarked on this latest chapter (AKA “The Last Move”) in our lives. That works out to about $20,000 a pound, based on the cost of our new pad, but, hey — whatever works, right?

Anyway, my left knee — the one that hasn’t been surgically repaired — has been swollen and stiff for quite some time. I think I’ve mentioned the whole “baker’s cyst” trouble I’ve had with this joint (it’s a form of bursitis, I think, though I’ve never had it examined — see earlier post). It’s just more of the same, but it’s lingering in a way that’s become annoying. I can’t play tennis, for example; indeed, the only form of recreation that actually works is bicycling, and even that’s a bit iffy.

It’s been so annoying that I’ve actually briefly considered seeing a doctor and maybe getting the thing scoped — just cleaning out whatever’s floating around in there and getting back onto the tennis court. For all its flaws, one thing Western medicine does well is repair joints.

Or maybe not. I read a piece in The New York Times that called into question the wisdom of knee surgery. According to recent research at Sweden‘s Lund University, physical therapy may be just as effective as surgery in repairing a torn ACL.

Despite a widespread belief that surgery leads to a stronger knee, the results showed that surgically reconstructing the A.C.L. as soon as possible after the tear “was not superior” to more conservative treatment, the study’s authors wrote. The findings suggest, the authors concluded, that “more than half the A.C.L. reconstructions” currently being conducted on injured knees “could be avoided without adversely affecting outcomes.

Talk about getting your world view validated!

So, last week, I told my acupuncturist about my problem, and she stuck some needles in the crook of my right elbow as well as various other places, and I laid there on the barcalounger for an hour while my left leg buzzed and tingled in an intriguing way. When she pulled out the needles, the swelling had gone down noticeably. I was astonished; she just nodded and smiled. I’ve read that acupuncture is particularly effective against any sort of inflammation, but still…

I came home and announced to MLW that I’d been cured, which was a slight exaggeration, but it sure made any thoughts I might’ve had about going under the knife fade away.

(I should note here that MLW is treating her chronic knee trouble — which is way more serious than anything I’ve had
to deal with — through a treatment program called Feldenkrais. Read more about that here.)

Buoyed by my small needle-induced triumph, I returned to the gym last night and climbed on one of the go-nowhere bikes and pedaled for a pretend 5 miles (about 20 minutes). Nothing too intense, mind you. Just a ride in the pretend park with
pretend scenery, the pretend wind at my back — it’s always at your back at the gym; I like that part. No hills, either. Tires always inflated properly. Still pretty boring, though. Then I lifted for another 30 minutes, just as a way to get the endorphins flowing again, and left feeling pretty good. (Endorphins do that.)

It’s a little stiff today, but not bad. I’m beginning to think it’s actually on the mend. I’ll get back to Dr. Needle in a couple weeks for another round of acupuncture intrigue, and meanwhile continue trying to work out the kinks at the gym. I’ll keep you posted.

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