I was on a short run last week, and I was getting irritated by the recurring pain in my knees. All through my run streak last November and December, my knees didn’t play up. I was so pleased, I even wrote the post ‘the pursuit of happy knees‘, as I thought I had figured out how to run without knee injury. Then I changed my training plan…
I’ve been picking up my pace and have recently started doing sprint work. In addition, I’ve been back to doing squats in the gym. Sure enough, my old knee pains started resurfacing. On that last run, I’d finally had enough, and after years of holding off, I heeded my friends advice, and saw a doctor.
The doctor will see you now
The orthopaedic surgeon looked to be in his late thirties and was generally upbeat when I talked him through the types of physical activities I participate in. He lay me down on the table and checked my knees. He wasn’t too impressed with my left, but particularly unimpressed with my right knee. I confirmed that my right knee is the one that was giving me most problem. A bit more checking and he diagnosed that I have worn away a lot of my cartilage behind my right patella.
I asked him what he recommended. He ruled out any procedures related to stem cells, but suggested hyaluronic acid injections and a PRP injection. Hyaluronic acid is a natural lubricant present in the human body, and the injections should lubricate my knee joint.
PRP is a bit more interesting – platelet rich plasma. This involves extracting a vial of my own blood, spinning it in a centrifuge for fifteen minutes till it separates, then re-injecting the platelet rich plasma, a clear liquid which contains growth factor. This is supposed to aid healing of the damaged cartilage.
Roll up your trouser leg please
The following morning, I returned to the surgeon’s office, and was laid down on another bed in a small operating room. First, my blood was drawn, then the surgeon, doctor and nurses talked amongst themselves whilst the blood was spun out. Fifteen minutes later the surgeon returned, then injected a single injection of hyaluronic acid deep into my knee, followed by the PRP. I won’t lie, it did not feel pleasant. Imagine someone stabbing you twice in the knee with a large needle, and that’s exactly what it felt like! Nevertheless, I was able to walk out from the doctor’s, a bit light-headed from skipping lunch then having blood drawn.
The days after
The surgeon had advised me to use an ice pack three times a day for three days to reduce swelling, which I dutifully did, and maybe that’s why I didn’t notice any swelling. The following day I noticed that my right quadricep wasn’t contracting properly as I walked, but fixed itself the day after, so I concluded that it might have just had some minor nerve damage from the site of the injection.
I was told that I should be able to resume running, and run as many flat road marathons as I like, but that anything hilly cause my damaged knee cartilage to continue to deteriorate rapidly. I was also told that I should shorten my stride length, and not to to squats. That explains why running with short strides during my run streak kept me pain-free, whereas starting sprinting and squatting in the last month aggravated things.
I haven’t run yet, but have been indoor rock climbing, plus I’ve been walking for miles each day. I’ve been told the PRP should stimulate some recovery, but may take a month to notice, so I won’t hold my breath. For now, I’ll be happy to get back running and cycling in the next few days, and with a bit of luck I may notice less pain in the future.
Hopefully this post may be useful to anyone with knee (or other pain) who’s been holding off getting medical advice. As the surgeon replied when I asked him if I should have seen him a few years ago when I first noticed that I had knee pain, “the damage is done, but yes you should have!”