life: super powers not included

Stupid Human Tricks

Knees and Knee-highsphoto by coba

Our bodies do some crazy things. Like how our eyes tear up when they’re hit with freezing wind. No sadness or loneliness there, just cold, raw air. Or how we sweat when we’re nervous. Isn’t sweat the body’s way of cooling itself? I’m never hot when I’m nervous. That brings me to the freaky if not completely annoying thing my body did this weekend. My knees—those ever-infuriating discs that continue to complicate my life—started playing games with me.

It began on Saturday when I was sitting on the couch doing some work. I was splayed out over the entire couch—legs reaching to the teensy corner The Man occupied. (Sorry, Man.) Anyhow, I spent a few hours in that position because I was on a role with an article I was writing and, frankly, it was really warm under the fuzzy blanket I draped over me. My point is, I wasn’t doing any exercise—no physical activity in any way, shape, or size. I was being a (hard-working) bum.

Then things started getting all Twilight Zone freaky on me. When I walked into the kitchen to make dinner, my knees were bright red and burning up. That’s how they get when I walk a ton a few blocks. And while I wouldn’t have been happy about it, I would have understood their flare-up had I been shopping or standing or even walking around the house. But no. No, no, no. They were inflamed by sitting! Sheesh.

So the rest of the night I acted like someone had just amputated my legs. Every half hour or so, I’d roll up my pant leg and ask The Man whether he thought my knees still looked red.

Yes.

No, really. Look again. How red do you think they look?

Red.

Feel them. Don’t they feel hot?

Yup.

Do you think I’m doomed to a life of knee pain?

No.

Can you look at them again?

[Rolls his eyes.]

You get the idea. I was freaking out. My knees weren’t hurting, mind you. But I was worried something else was going on—permanent damage to my knees or a new trend of pain without activity. The heat and redness went down after a couple hours, but the event scarred me. That is, until Sunday.

That evening, The Man and I braved the frigid cold to sneak a workout in at the gym. My knees had been feeling pretty good all day (all week, really, if you discount the non-painful but petrifying redness episode), so I decided to push myself. I biked for 16 minutes at a resistance two notches higher than normal. I turned on my music, stared straight at my knees, and concentrated on the rhythm of my legs pounding down on the petals. I was more tired after that bike ride than I have been since I started physical therapy.

And ya know what? (I’m sure you’ve guessed by now.)

The knees that terrorized me the night before weren’t red at all. Not. At. All. As in no inflammation. They felt pretty darn good, too

I don’t understand. Maybe the flare-up was a fluke. Maybe I did something to my knees without knowing it. (Doubtful, though. I pretty much baby my knees as if they were made of crystal.) Maybe my body just felt like screwing with me. Either way, I’m happy to report my knees are feeling great today. I hope a few months from now, I’ll look back at this post and realize it was a turning point in my fight against knee pain.

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11 comments

1 Sagan { 01.11.10 at 9:43 pm }

Very interesting! I spend a lot of time on my feet and I find that if I sit even for a short period of time, my legs can “seize up”. I also ALWAYS get red patches on my legs if I’m sitting with a leg curled up under me or if it’s pressing against something… so it might just be that, too.

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2 Crabby McSlacker { 01.11.10 at 10:23 pm }

Hope there’s an innocent explanation–I like Sagan’s theories. ‘Cause like you, I’d be freaked out by the mysterious red knee flare up!

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Tracey Reply:

Ah, I wish it were a random red-knee thingy, but it’s the same red hotness I usually get from lots of walking. It’s an outward sign of inflammation in the knee, so both of my knee caps–and only the knee caps, strangely enough–get bright red. While I know it felt and looked the same as usual, the strange part was that my knee didn’t hurt. I’m hoping it’s a fluke flare!

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3 Joanna Sutter (Fitness & Spice) { 01.12.10 at 8:04 am }

The same thing happens to me! I’m glad I’m not alone!

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Tracey Reply:

You’re definitely not alone, Joanna. But when it comes to knee issues, I’m not so sure I’m company you want to keep!

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4 Joy Manning { 01.12.10 at 10:22 am }

I sure hope it was a turning point, too. Remember to ask your doctor next time you see him for the treatment (don’t you have a few more rounds of platelet thingies ahead?) He might be able to shed some light on it. Did you think about calling?

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Tracey Reply:

I have another round coming up, but I’m trying to build more leg muscle before I go under the needle. I’ll definitely ask her, though.

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5 FoodFitnessFreshair { 01.12.10 at 12:09 pm }

I’m glad this post had a happy ending. Not quite what I was expecting, haha. The body is so very amazing!! It’s incredible all that we can do and how intricate each system is.

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6 David { 01.15.10 at 12:06 pm }

Just came across your blog for the first time and I’m glad I did! Have you ever had issues with your IT Band? I started struggling with IT Band issues last year and have yet to find a good solution to the knee pain caused by this. Any advice or thoughts? Thanks!

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Tracey Reply:

Hi David. Sorry to hear you’re having such problems. While I’ve never had an issue with my IT Band directly, my IT band gets tights and exacerbates my knee pain. In trying to heal my own knee, I turned to a number of things that eased some of the tension in my IT Band:

Using a foam roller helps a lot. But I also learned about trigger point therapy. While I don’t use it nearly as regularly as I should, I found that when I targeted tight spots in my IT Band with the therapy it helped my knee pain. I bought this book, which is great for descriptions of trigger point therapy all over the body. Otherwise, there’s great information on this Web site.

Another thing I’d suggest, if you haven’t already, is see a physical therapist. It’s absolutely amazing how a single injury is related to so many other things in our bodies. Chances are your IT Band is hurting because of weakness or tightness elsewhere in the body. A PT can help you target those areas while easing the pain. For instance, when I first visited my PT with pain under the knee cap, I didn’t expect to learn weak hamstrings, hips, and glutes played a role. Or, similarly, you can overuse one part of your body when running or exercising then cause pain in another area because of an imbalance.

Let me know what you discover. I’d love to post more about this common problem. And I hope you’re pain free soon!

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7 David { 01.15.10 at 5:46 pm }

Thanks for the ideas! Right now, my cure is stretching, the Stick, and trying to strengthen the muscles around it. It gave me a lot of trouble when I did my half marathon last year but since October I haven’t had any issues. I’m just leery of another issue showing up at an inopportune time.

Thanks again! I’ll keep checking in.

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