Getting over knee problems without surgery?

catherinetAugust 14, 2010

4 years ago I had a meniscus repair on my one knee. Because of my fibromyalgia, it was hell for months. I finally, after alot of PT, felt better, and haven't had much problem with my knee.......until last Tuesday. I had to go up and down stairs because of a problem in the basement.

In the morning, I couldn't even walk. I have spent all week laying down and icing it. I can't take NSAIDS. I've been doing all the exercises I learned after my last surgery.

Today DH suggested that maybe I'm hitting the exercises too hard, since they were meant for post-surgery and not immediately post-injury.

I've read that they're finding out that PT is just as good as surgery in many cases. I just don't want surgery. (especially in light of my fibromyalgia).

Have any of you made progress on your own with just exercises, etc., after you've injured your knee from a meniscus problem, or osteoarthritis?

I'm trying to give it a couple weeks before I call a doctor, but dang, I can't go anywhere or do anything because of the intense pain.

Yes, pain is usually a red flag that something is wrong. But with fibromyalia, our red flags go up inappropriately!

It seems to be more of a muscle spasm problem in my entire leg, rather than pinpoint pain in my knee.

I'm getting pretty frustrated with my body parts taking turns breaking down.

Ortho docs are pretty set on surgery, so I'm trying to approach this (at least for a couple weeks) with alternative treatments.

Any suggestions?


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I suggest you visit your doctor and see just what is wrong with the knee. It could be something completely different.

I had knee pain. It would get better with rest but always come back. I thought it was arthritis in the knee. Finally a few weeks ago it got so bad I went to the Doctor. Well it wasn't Arthritis at all, and it wasn't in the knee. I had Iliotibial band syndrome. A fiberous band that covers the muscle on the side of the leg--the Ilitoibial band-- was damaged. This band runs from the hip to the knee and gives stability to the knee--hence the knee pain. 3 week later and a few Physiotherapy sessions and I am practically pain free and hope to be complete recovered soon. I learned something else. When something is wrong in the leg, often the muscles stop working right, so there is weakness too.

Your problem might be like mine and not require surgery at all, but you won't know unless you find out what is causing the pain. I could kick myself for putting up with the pain for years, when it could have been taken care of so easily.

My suggestion is find out and then figure out how you are going to deal with it. Educate yourself about what you have. You can always refuse surgery if it is suggested, but if you don't know, you just suffer, and maybe unnecessarily.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 7:25PM
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If the cartilage in the knee is worn out there is no dealing with it, except surgery or a wheel chair. Before it is severely damaged you can exercise to strengthen the muscles around the knee for support. I thought my knee was wearing out because of pain. When I described the pain to my doctor he said that's arthritis not cartilage problem. The doctor told me that stairs were the number one killer for the knees. I moved to a home with laundry utilities up stairs.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 7:50PM
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Thanks oilpainter,

Thats good advice oilpainter. This seems different than my last knee problem, but I assumed it was the same thing. My old exercises might not even be dealing with a potentially new problem.
Thanks for your help!
(And good luck with your knee!)

    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 7:51PM
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I had a similiar problem as oilpainter. My IT Band was bruised as well as my kneecap according to the doctor. I had fallen straight down on the knee when I tripped over the ice maker water line while removing wallpaper behind the fridge. It hurt on the outside of my knee and at the little bone on the lower part of my kneecap. I also have a small tear on the inner part of the knee but he said it wasn't enough to do surgery and wouldn't cause the pain I had. I wear a knee brace when I excerise and it helps alot. Use BioFreeze when the pain won't let me sleep. Time has helped and I just make sure when I feel pain while excerising that I stop whatever I am doing to cause it. V-steps and deep knee bends are out!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 7:55PM
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Thanks vala and mboston.
This pain is mostly behind my knee and on the outside of my lower thigh and into my lateral calf. It feels like spasms.
I haven't been out of the house in 5 days because of it.
Like I said, I have fibromyalgia and have had painful problems in the past that turned out to be nothing. Just a doc visit and testing will probably be at the very least $1,500, so I'm trying to wait things out a little, to see if it disappears on its own (fibro is like that).
But.....I think this deserves a visit to the doc soon.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 9:39PM
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That sounds just like what I had. Pain down the outside of the whole leg but worse in the knee and behind the knee. One day when I ran my hand behind the knee my hamstring was sticking out so I could feel this ropelike thing behind the knee. IT band trouble can affect all parts of the leg. Is yours better after rest and gets worse with use.

Mine started a while after hip surgery. Maybe yours if it is the IT band it is from your knee surgery. Mine required no testing, just a doctors visit. You could do that and put off testing until later.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 6:10AM
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My pain is often hard to figure out, since alot of uninvolved parts react to pain somewhere else, with my fibrmyalgia.
The only warning I may have gotten was that my leg started aching at night (which is what I had prior to the meniscus problem). Yes....If I sit or lay down, the pain all goes away, for the most part. I get up, and it starts immediately.
I hope its not bone-on-bone pain. You'd think I would have more pain at rest if it was really inflamed.
I have had big problems with my foot structure my whole life too. I had surgery on my left foot about 13 years ago, for an arthritis chip in the big toe, and several hammertoes. I had plantar fasciitis alot, because of my tight tendons.
After my knee surgery (I think because of my limping), I developed a neuroma in my right foot. I could hardly walk. I got orthotics, and that helped alot. The pain went away completely when it forced my second toe to become a hammertoe. So I'm sure my gait has changed since then, which might be affecting my knee.
Also, after my knee surgery I seemed to develop piriformis syndrome.....which eventually went away.

Needless to say, I think I was born with an inferior/weak structure.
I do know that alot of my tendons/muscles are really tight most of the time.
I decided to quit doing my exercises yesterday, thinking it might be hurting it, but my pain got alot worse. So its back to the stretching and strengthening exercises today.
Fortunately, I have a cryopak for icing.

Another curious thing is that my body seems to fall apart every Fall. This has happened ever since I developed fibromyalgia about 15 years ago. I do take D3 supplements, in the event it has something to do with SAD.
I've been to so many docs in my life and I know that not all of them are reasonable troubleshooters.
Did your doc immediately realize that yours was the IT band problem?
I also think some of the physical therapists know more about some of these things than the docs.
Was the doc who diagnosed you an orthopod?
Thanks for your help oilpainter.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 11:28AM
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Yes cathernet he did recognise immediately what was wrong. He diagnosed it with just an examination.

He did send me for x-rays of the hip too in case there was a problem there, but I don't think he thought there was. As I hadn't had it checked since just after surgery, this was just a precaution. I've never heard back from him so that means there wasn't.

He told me to take Ibuprophen and rest and ice the knee, and sent me for physio. The physiotherapist gave me a few exercises to do, but I won't pass them on in case that's not what you have.

I had pain off and on since the surgery when I did a lot of walking or shopping. Just a little at first but more as time went on. It was always better after a good nights sleep until the last time. Then it did get better after I lay down for ahile and I could sleep but was there the next day when I started moving.

Runners often get It band syndrome because of the stress they put on the band. If they are not wearing good footwear it is easier to get, so the foot and how you walk can affect it.

I know Arthritis does get worse with rest and better once there is movement. With IT band syndrome it gets better with rest and pains with movement. This band of fibrous tissue is smooth and glides over the knee when working right but doesn't gilde so well when it's damaged. The muscles are affected because they can't work right and the leg is weak.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 8:17PM
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No--- the doctor who diagnosed me was a GP.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 8:20PM
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Thanks oilpainter,

I'm waiting to hear back from the ortho doc's office about an appointment.
I usually try to avoid GPs, because they just can't know alot about everything in today's medical world, but I do think they tend to use their brains a little more and have a little more good clinical judgment.
I'm afraid the specialists get tunnel vision and only do what they're used to doing.........which is surgery.
My knee is a little better with all the stretching and icing, but it still goes in to spasms once I'm up for more than 5 minutes.

What did the people in earlier times used to do with this problem? Maybe more of us would get over it without surgery, if we just waited long enough? Sometimes I think we just don't give our bodies a chance to heal themselves.
But its hard to suffer when you know "modern medicine" might be able to stop the pain sooner.
I have done nothing but little things around the house for a week now, and I haven't made much progress. I haven't gone anywhere, and am going a bit crazy.
So I'm getting a little more amendable to seeking out a doc's opinion. But like you said, I don't have to do what he recommends, if I don't feel right with it.
Just wish there were an easy way to get new meniscii without replacing the whole joint with plastic and steel or infusing rooster combs into it.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2010 at 12:02PM
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Your reasoning is precicely why I prefer to go to a GP. GP's know a about a lot of things, maybe not about certain things like a specialist, but they don't have tunnel vision either. You are more likely to get a correct diagnosis from a GP.

Specialists like to send you for lots of tests and if your problem is not within the range of their expertise you don't get results.

Take for example my Osteoporosis. It started out as dizziness and vertigo. I had a lousy GP for a family doctor at the time. It didn't seem to matter because I was seldom sick and had no long term problems. Well he sent me to an ENT specialist--after tests and many visits, nothing wrong with my ear. On to a neurosergeon--nothing wrong there. Finally I got a new GP and he sent me for a bone density--yep severe Osteo. My vertibrae had shrunk and the bone was pressing on the nerve. 8 years later and treatment and I am in the normal range for bone density.

That's why I prefer GP's.

It may not be your Meniscus at all, unless you think you did something to damage it. It may be something altogether different. I guess you won't know until you see a doctor.

I wish you well

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 4:41AM
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Thanks oilpainter.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 7:46AM
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