Surprise Blessings and Learning from My Knee Injury

DSCN8545I’m trying to take life easier since I hurt my knee and, gradually, the knee seems to be getting better as I do less and rest more. It still hurts a little, and does click and pop, but not with every step. Obviously I haven’t been running at all, and I’ve been trying to limit my walking. Otherwise, my Monday/Thursday resistance workouts (mainly upper body) are going fine, and the knees seem to be tolerating an easy 15 minutes of rowing on the other days. So far, so good. I see the orthopedic surgeon next Friday.

Rest is important, and last Saturday and Sunday I slept in, arising over an hour later than usual. I woke up early, but rather than getting up I rolled over and went back to sleep. When my wife commented on this rare occurrence happening twice in the same weekend, I replied that I must have just needed the rest. Then she said, “But you have always told me the reason that you get up early is that when you wake up, your back hurts, and you can’t get comfortable enough to go back to sleep,” and the light bulb came on in my head. Eureka! She’s right; my back isn’t hurting in the mornings lately! A week later, this is still holding – my chronic low back pain is much relieved since I have not been running.

I am surprised and pleased, but also trying to make sense of it. Some history is in order: Fifteen years ago I was sedentary, out of shape, 180 pounds, and had fairly significant “mechanical” lower back pain. Changing my lifestyle, I began to eat better, run and lift weights, eventually becoming fit and trim at about 160 pounds. My back pain got much better but didn’t completely resolve. Over the last several years it has worsened somewhat, and I’ve tolerated it as part of “getting older.” The pain typically bothers me after continuously sitting, standing, or lying in bed for too long, hence the weekend early rising. Now it’s only been a few weeks, and I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but it appears that somewhere along the way, the running began to exacerbate my back pain.

Beyond my back, for the last several years I’ve also been bothered by pain at the base of my neck, which I’ve attributed to likely early degenerative arthritis. Typically this pain develops after prolonged reading with my neck flexed forward, and I do a lot of reading. However, I’ve noticed that sometimes I develop this same pain at the end of my runs, usually around mile four (of five) or so. Guess what? My resting neck pain also seems improved in the last two weeks. Very interesting.

It’s nice to feel better, but I feel a little embarrassed for not thinking about this possible connection before now. And I call myself “holistic!” Well, I am holistic, but no one can know everything and it’s hard to have an objective view of your own health. I’ve never liked going to doctors, but clearly being my own doctor isn’t the best option. We will see what the real doctor has to say on Friday.