Getting old sucks

I’m probably starting to sound like a hypochondriac but once again my body is sending me messages. Right now it’s my knees that are bothering me.

Some of you may remember when I broke my left kneecap back in 1967. They wired my kneecap back together and I had to stay in a cast for about 7-8 weeks but things healed up fairly well – or so I thought. They certainly healed up well enough for Uncle Sam to draft my ass – but that’s another story for another time.

One residual effect of the injury though was that I always had problems with my left knee becoming painful if I had to sit in one position for an extended period usually a couple of hours. Because of that, whenever I would go to the movies I would always seek out an aisle seat where I could stick my left leg out into the aisle to stretch it.

Another residual effect was a cracking sound in my knee. I learned that the cracking sound is called Crepitus. Interestingly, Crepitus is also the name for the Roman god of flatulence (those crazy Romans had gods for everything) but I think that’s a story for another time too.

About five years ago, I slightly injured my knee, the same left one, playing in a field hockey game (don’t ask – it seemed like a good idea at the time – besides, that’s another story for another time). This time I think I tore my MCL (I never did go to the doctor, just self diagnosed via the internet and then self treated – treatment for MCL injuries is pretty much rest). The MCL never really recovered from that and was sometimes be a bit tender.

The knee problems were really only slightly bothersome. They never really prevented me from doing anything (well almost – they did prevent me from playing field hockey again but that might be a good thing) so I wasn’t too worried about them.

That began to change a couple of months ago. The knee problems started to escalate. Rather than be occassionally sore, the MCL seemed to be constantly sore. Plus I would only have to remain in a sitting position for a few minutes and the knee pain would start. Minor trips, like just stubbing my toe, would cause a shooting pain in my knee. I started having constant left knee pain while lying down and finding a position comfortable enough to sleep became a problem. After minor exercise, like playing golf, both knees would tighten up and walking down stairs would be an effort – I’d look like an 80 year old man.

This time my internet research had me convinced that I had arthritis. Just typing in “knee pain” in Google takes you to this post at the top of the list. When you click on the arthritis link, you are presented with a series of Q and A’s with this one being most prominent.

Who develops knee arthritis?
Knee arthritis typically affects patients over 50 years of age. It is more common in patients who are overweight, and weight loss tends to reduce the symptoms associated with knee arthritis. There is also a genetic predisposition of this condition, meaning knee arthritis tends to run in families. Other factors that can contribute to developing knee arthritis include trauma to the knee, meniscus tears or ligament damage, and fractures to the bone around the joint.

Let’s see: I’m over 50. I’m overweight. I’ve had ligament damage. My kneecap was fractured. I seemed like an ideal candidate.

I was all ready to rush off to Lisa to get her advice when I deciced I’d better go see a doctor first. I had my first appointment last week.

First, the good news. The xrays showed that I still have substantial cartilage in my knees and I’m not even close to getting to a bone on bone situation. Plus, while there were slight signs of prearthric conditions in my knees, my personal diagnosis of arthritis appeared to be incorrect.

Now, the bad news. My kneecap did not heal corrently from my surgery 40 years ago. The two halves of the kneecap did not align perfectly when they fused together so I have a well defined ridge along the fracture line. That ridge is what causes the Crepitus (at least, it’s what causes the knee Crepitus). That, in and of itself, is not necessarily a problem. The concern is what has that ridge done to the cartilage that it constantly rubs against. Xrays can’t detect damage to soft tissues like cartilage.

I am also suffering from a hereditary condition called chondro-something (I missed the last part). Basically, I’m getting small calcium deposits in the cartilage in my knee. A couple of the calcium deposits have grown large enough that they are approaching being bone spurs. Treatment for the condition involves either injections or orthoscopic surgery depending on the extent of damage the calcium deposits have caused to my ligaments. I’ll need to have an MRI to determine how far gone the damage is and I’m scheduled for that next week.

I’ll updated when I have more info.