By ELISABETH CHEAH
In January 2012, I injured my knee while cycling uphill. And I have been living with knee pain for almost four years. It has been quite a long journey of suffering, until now.
I spent every minute of the first three years doing one of these three things: having treatment; wondering why my treatment was not working; or seeking the next treatment. It was physically, mentally and spiritually draining. As my knee condition deteriorated, so did my emotional well-being.
Everyday activities that most people take for granted, became a challenge. I had to make a checklist of the things I needed for the day, before I leave my bedroom and head downstairs. I couldn’t just run upstairs to grab my keys any time I needed them.
I couldn’t go anywhere without finding out exactly how many paces it took from the car park. (I could only handle 10 or less). Catching up with old friends in that cute cafe on the first floor was out of the question.
I didn’t know which felt more impossible – having to live life performing my daily routines in this manner, or summoning the will to tackle them every single day, not knowing if this would be my new reality.
The measure of the real damage of a bodily injury is far more insidious than its physical debilitation. I began to avoid socialising to spare myself the heartache of declining an invite or feeling like a handicap, or worse, having unsolicited sympathy.
Not knowing much about injuries, I fumbled in the dark, moving from one treatment to the next based on friends’ recommendations.
The first thing I did was physiotherapy. After a year, my knee still hurt despite all the strengthening exercises they taught me.
I decided to keep an open mind and explored alternative medicine. I did acupuncture for half a year or so. After a while, I found it cured the symptoms but did not address the root cause of my problem.
Not wanting to feel defeated, I searched on. While browsing the Internet, I learned about the importance of bone alignment and I went to see a chiropractor. The chiropractor confirmed that my knee bone was misaligned. That was why my knee could not heal after so long. But chiropractic did not offer the cure I was looking for.
By this time – almost three years on – growing anxieties were beginning to overwhelm me. I was perplexed. Now that my bone has been aligned, why was I still not recovering?
The next thing that was recommended to me was prolotherapy which involved injecting a sugar solution (dextrose) into the injured area to stimulate healing. I had a series of injections, and it did reduce the soreness but still I couldn’t walk very far.
In the middle of this year, my aunt from Australia told me about low-level laser therapy and how it heals micro-tears in the knee which may not be detectable in MRIs. That raised my hope. After a month of treatment where I had laser therapy running concurrently with chiropractic adjustments, I felt the inflammation in the knee was further reduced. This was a big leap in my recovery. I was told that in order to fully heal, I needed to simultaneously strengthen my muscles to hold my knee in place, and that I needed the help of a rehabilitation trainer. That marked the beginning of the end of my anguish. Rehab trainers are people who help injured patients regain independence and mobility. Their role lies somewhere in between that of a physiotherapist and a personal trainer.
I started treatment and was closely monitored to make sure I was working the right muscles. As it turned out, in the past, I had insufficient exercises; besides, I was doing some of them incorrectly. That was why I wasn’t getting much results. In fact, doing them wrongly actually caused me further injuries. Over the years, I had used my back strength to compensate for my weak knee and eventually I started having very bad backaches. I did an MRI and results showed I had a slipped disc.
Right after the first session, I felt a significant reduction in my knee pain. Their exercises consisted of whole body workouts specially customised to suit each patient, so my back also started to feel better.
After only two weeks, I was able to go shopping! This was a big achievement considering I’d been mostly house-bound.
Although I am still undergoing treatment, for the first time in years things are looking bright. Having a rehab trainer is a relatively new concept in Malaysia but it may be something you could consider if you have been suffering for a long time with no sign of improvement. Without guidance, it’s hard to gauge the right amount of exercises to do. Rehab trainers also rehabilitate you psychologically as the mind plays a big role in the healing process. It is imperative that you seek an experienced and qualified rehab trainer to benefit from this whole exercise.
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