the knee saga

Dr. Bean walked into the room today wearing a silver Tiffany bean pendant. I commented on how I’d received the same necklace from an awkward date in college after we’d had a conversation about eating beans. She shared that she has a collection of them given as gifts because of her name. First appointment off to a good start.

Finally, after three months of hoping my knee would heal itself, I made an appointment so a doctor could tell me exactly what I already knew. If I want my knee to heal I actually need to stop doing the stuff that’s making it worse. That includes but is not limited to bike commuting to work, sprinting to catch Aviv’s school bus, breaststroke and flip turns in the pool, burpees in baby boot camp, anything involving lunges or squats in TRX and all spin classes. And that leaves me with what exactly?

Note to self: when something hurts, stop doing it! The knee saga began on a Sunday morning in May when I needed to get to work but also really wanted to swim and really wanted to pick up some farmers market produce. In my usual way, I opted “in” to everything. My knee had been bugging me for a few days but I didn’t have the car that particular morning. I did have two hours till rehearsal began so I hopped on my bike and pedaled to the market. Beautiful, fresh produce in hand (actually in pannier bags) I rode up the Arguello hill and down to the Presidio Y pool. I raced through a short swim workout then me and my several pounds of produce sped up and over the city toward the Opera. After rehearsal I added a violin to my back and started toward home with the usual headwind. Climbing the Hayes hill my knee was in pain but once home I forgot about it until my Monday night spin class, when it hurt badly enough I decided to quit.

I took it (sort of) easy for a few weeks during the Ring Cycle then I did (almost) nothing besides swim while we were out of town this summer. It’s easy to choose a daily half mile in the water when you’re swimming in warm lakes and a gorgeous outdoor hot springs pool. (Side note: I was pretty pleased by my ability to swim half mile easily at altitude and commented on this to a local athlete in Steamboat Springs, CO. He smiled and informed me that the Elevation 10,568 printed on my Steamboat t-shirt is the elevation at the top of the ski mountain, not the pool in town).

Anyway… my knee felt fine swimming all summer but since we’ve been home and I gotten back to my usual activities it’s been worse. So alas, I need to stop doing everything that is causing the patellofemoral pain symptom (inflamed tissues underneath my kneecap, in regular words). Try as she might this morning, Dr. Bean couldn’t find any muscle weakness or imbalances (yay!) but it turns out my hamstrings are tight (no kidding) and I also need to ice the knee for 20 minutes at least 3 times a day to get rid of the inflamation. Weirdly, I think making time to sit and ice for a hour a day presents my biggest challenge but Aviv has already been suggesting ice every time I mention pain so he’ll help me remember.

IMG_7751After my appointment, I figured the best way to celebrate nothing really being wrong with my knee would be swimming (since freestyle without flip turns is still on my “okay” list). I was a few blocks from the newly renovated Chinatown Y saltwater pool and curious. The locker room has not been recently renovated and is carpeted so I was pleased I’d remembered my flip flops. The pool water, actually chlorinated saltwater, is slightly warmer than the Presidio Y pool. It was perfect for my speed and distance today but would be too warm for an intense workout. Unlike the Presidio, there’s no space for a warm pool or hot tub, just 5 lanes, split between lap and recreation. The length is “just under 25 yards” in the lifeguard’s words and my expensive smartwatch wasn’t smart enough to catch this deviation from the usual 25 yards. Good thing I bought the watch for its looks, not functionality.


After dim sum and wandering through the Chinatown markets I eventually made it home for my first 20 minute icing. Turns out, though our freezer is bursting with jars of Ariel’s delicious homemade pesto it does not contain a bag of frozen peas or any sort of flexible ice pack. I rigged up an icey knee swaddle using two lunchbox ice packs and a kitchen towel then sat down to practice.

So, here’s the plan moving forward: Only participate in activities that don’t aggravate the knee, ice it at least 3 times a day, continue applying arnica oil or cbd topical lotion and boost my turmeric intake. Check back with me in a couple of weeks.




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