Friday, August 07, 2009

Ben vs. Knees

I have no problem with knees in general, there are even two knees that I'm really rather fond of. However, those knees are not mine. My knees belong to a class of their own -- that is, knees which I deeply dislike. They're not objectionable looking knees, a little nobbly perhaps; and I think the kneecaps are a bit asymmetrical, but they do have an infuriating habit of fucking with my plans.

Around this time two years ago I was a recently graduated unemployed layabout. As I believe is the case with many unemployed layabouts, I found that inactivity bred more inactivity, mentally and phyiscally. I'd made great strides while I was at university; I lost a lot of weight (about 40 pounds) and I'd done a whole world of brainthinky. In the world of rejection letters and endless adverts for jobs in recruitment, however, I found this progress slipping away. By mid-august I'd put about 15 pounds back on, and was rapidly losing the ability to construct coherent sentences (as I'm sure the blog posts from that period will attest) so I decided to do something decisive.

I started going out running every morning. Not very far at first -- the first few times I went out my wobbly and protesting limbs screamed at me to stop within about a minute of my starting -- but I gradually increased the distances I ran everyday, and the speed that I ran it. By october I was running something in the order of 2 miles every afternoon and feeling good. I'd got to the point where I was fit enough that I could do this without once feeling like I wanted to die.I felt myself getting fitter and stronger and I lost about 10 pounds. I even got a job.

A few days after a I started working I went to a local folk night to play guitar with my dad. I was carrying my fretless bass in its bag and thinking about work the next day (I was still new to the world of proper work, and was still expecting to be fired at any moment.) About 10 metres from the door of the pub my left knee made a funny clicking noise and gave way under me. For the rest of the evening it hurt something ungodly. At the time I figured it was something to do with being pitched around in strange directions on the tube; I acknowledged the possibility that my running was a factor, but I assumed that it wasn't the primary cause. This seems a little odd but what you have to bear in mind is that at the time I'd not been out running for three days because of work, and I hadn't ever experienced any pain or discomfort in my knees either during or after running. This incident gets a passing mention in a post I wrote later that evening about all the things about Folk music that get on my nerves.

After a few days, however, it went away. I left it about a week and then went out running one evening after work. This wasn't a very pleasant experience. I wasn't in any pain (again, my knee felt fine during the run) but it was mid-november by this point, and it was dark, and raining, hard. I was running the route that my feet knew off by heart, and there was no-one else around, so knowing where I was going wasn't a problem. Nonetheless, with headphones in my ears and rain splattering on my glasses I was essentially running through a giant, dark, sensory deprivation tank, which wasn't much fun. When I got home my knee felt a little odd, perhaps a bit swollen and tender. The next day it hurt, and continued to hurt for longer than it did the first time. I decided I should knock the running on the head for a month or two.

Over the next few weeks it got worse. It started to hurt all the time. Then hurt more. I started to walk with a limp. A visit to the doctor left me with a support bandage and two weeks worth of muscle relaxants to help the sprain heal. These did fuck all except for making my knee sweaty and uncomfortable when I was at work. I went back to the doctor a few weeks later and got an appointment with the local joint specialist (no, not Stoner Pete) at Queen Mary's.

I described the appointment with the specialist -- and his diagnosis -- here. In addition to explaining why my left knee had so catastrophically fucked up, he was able to tell me why my right knee locked up painfully when I sat in certain positions (a habit it has had for as long as I can remember).

For the next month or two I had to spend every friday morning at a physiotherapy center. I was made to ride on exercise bikes, perform excruciatingly painful exercises involving giant rubber balls, and do odd but difficult things involving frisbees and mini-trampolines. I missed quite a lot of work and had to spend a lot of time on the bus. As there were no showers at the hospital that I could use I had to go all the way home before I could clean myself up. The unpleasant result of that was that I got a yeast infection. On my fucking eyelids. It worked though, and I was able to go back to walking normally. I joined a gym so that I could keep fit without smashing my knees to pieces and was able to go around without looking like a man with a wooden leg.

That's been the situation, more or less, for the last year now -- my knee has twinged from time to time, but not for very long. I've been otherwise fine. That was, until last week, when a routine visit to the gym left me hobbling around like a crone again. I'm currently sitting on my sofa dosed up on painkillers. I have no idea whether this will pass in a few days, or whether I'm going to have to spend another 8 weeks going to the physio every friday and frantically scratching at my eyelids like a crazy person.

Still, I've got Fats Waller playing out of my stereo, and any scientist will tell you that you can't be grumpy while listening to a man who called himself "Fats".