February 13th, 6.40 pm – Sports Doctor clinic. The waiting room is quieter than usual. A man, in his mid 50s seems nervous. He asks me if we have the same doctor and the time of my appointment. For the first time he’ll get hyaluronic acid injections. It’s a product you usually take for cartilage injuries. 3 injections each, a week apart. The liquid will lubricate your damaged cartilage easing pain and providing more flexibility.

Age is the first cause but I was almost 35 years old when I started suffering from this very frustrating injury. Injury is not even the right word because I never felt bad until I heard a crack in my knee one day. It appears to be more common than expected at my age. If you are active then many chances you could get injured if you don’t take care of yourself. Sports isn’t the only factor but it contributes a great deal. You can be unbalanced between your quadriceps and your ischio. You can be fragile by birth or if you’re a woman you can have what many suffer from. The place where the patula is, is not quite developped and looks like a plateau. Therefore your patula is moving more that it should, damaging faster the cartilage. Then, as my wise doctor says: » unfortunately, we’re not born all equal. Some of us will eat candies all day long having no decay and others will not and will need more trips to the dentist! ».

How do you feel?

When your cartilage is damaged, your knee cracks and sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it’s not. You have trouble climbing up the stairs, or crouching. You can’t run, no jumping without feeling the pain. At first rolling in your bed can wake you up.

Confirming the diagnosis?

In my case, after twisting a bit my knee while running for which I have no recollection, I was no more able to flex it the way it is supposed to. According to my doctor I had a little spring which accumulated fluid in my knee. I had to rest and wait for it to dry. Once I got the « good to go », I started working out by training on the elliptical and I couldn’t even start. I had a weird sensation, a little pain and I heard a crack each time I was trying to pedal. I already had an echo so my doctor precripted an MRI. Conclusions: chondromalacia patellae. Cartilage damaged.

All those new words I had no idea about. My father used to be a physiotherapist so I called him right away. His reaction wasn’t reassuring cause I knew in his voice that the sport addict I was, was getting to be very frustrated. Bye running and the marathon attempt, bye bye tennis, skiing… or basic squats… I was embarking on an annoying adventure. All the more that after one year, the other knee was diagnosed as well. Of course there is worse and each time I feel down I think of a friend of mine who lost abilities to even walk. This makes your problem smaller. But still it is a challenge and a real frustration. Every time you see people running at the park or climbing up the stairs in the subways very fast. I was that girl. I keep faith because I believe someday they will figure this out. You have to know that there is no cure. Cartilage doesn’t regenerate. Hyaluronic acid injections (if doing it well) physical therapy, balancing out the ischio and the quad and keeping your weight down is what can ease your pain. It is true.

It’s been 6 years and I can climb up the stairs way easier. Of course I’m self conscious all the time. In my way to get in the car, to get on the bus or just reach the pavement across the street. Like I rebooted my brain. Now I anticipate the obstacles ahead of me. Sometimes I don’t even think about it. It’s just natural. I worked hard to ease the pain and gain some flexibility back. Some yoga poses helped me. Toning muscles as well… As of today, I can even run 6 km with bearing a small pain. I just can’t help myself! It’s just 5 times a year but it makes me feel good. A couple of years ago, I rode several km in the french countryside. It’s far from the 80-100km I used to do but you take what you can get! It takes a village.

The point of this article is to raise awareness because there is no signal before it happens to you. I had never injured my knees before. I wish I had taken more time warming up, doing stretching and more importantly better listening to my body. Today I know. In all fairness I a hyperthyroid condition that messed up my metabolism, the vitamins and the nutrients in my body. However it is not the only reason and it doesn’t change the fact that it’s too late. At least until they succeed in providing us a hydrogel. Many ongoing trials pointing towards that direction.

Hopefully it will happen soon. Injections are expensive and considered as comfort. Paracetamol supposed to be as good according to our Minister of health. Condescending to say the least! Ridiculous as they keep telling us these days to avoid that medication being bad for your stomach. I know many people who can’t afford those and will have to undergo surgery way before it was actually necessary. It’s reimbursed for the most part and cheaper than injections at the end. Some people would call that ironic I just think it is stupid! The injections work. Of course, each case is different but I’m not the only one. The first night I didn’t feel the pain anymore and heard a crack while moving in my bed was such a dream come true. Not even mentioning my first run. 15 minutes of pure joy. Frustrating too because I still know I shouldn’t. Whatever, it is a very nice feeling.

The bottom line here and the key word are: knee prevention!

I could never insist enough. Be aware that it is something you can’t prevent or at least postponed or diminish. Take supplements once a year. See a podiatrist. Good shoes tremendously help. Eat well. Some food are better than others for your cartilages. Warm up – Workout regularly and balance the exercises – Stretch. Maybe get a coach to do it well. Walk. Swim. Ride. Don’t do too much. Listen to your body. Find your equilibrium. Be happy. 🙂