How I overcame 15 years of knee pain
(or grade 3 meniscus damage)
I write this because I am aware there are some of you who suffer from knee pain, or another joint pain, and so keep away from physical movement.
This is my personal story. A story of 15 years of grade 3 knee meniscus damage.
What is this meniscus thing?
Meniscus or menisci for plural are thick rubber-like pads of cartilage tissue. Each knee joint contains an inner and outer meniscus (medial and lateral meniscus).
They are areas of cartilage tissue which act like shock absorbers in the joint and which may become damaged. They also help to improve smooth movement and stability of the knee.
We have a medial meniscus which is on the inner side of the knee joint. And we have a lateral meniscus is on the outside of the knee.
The damage can occur due to sudden movements, rotations or repeated injuries to the cartilage.
I will not go into too much detail. This is what meniscus is and does.
15 years of pain
I’ve been a competitive athlete since the age of 8, now I am 28 (almost). I think I had my first in-house Karate competition at around 9 years old. Karate was my way of life (and still is), it was everything for me and it build me to the person I am today.
As I was growing up my bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles were all working hard to keep up. I was not a runner back then. We used to run a couple of times in the 3 summer training camps we used to have, two at the sea side, the Black Sea, and one in the mountains, the Carpathian Mountains. But nothing much really.
However I slowly began to feel aches and pains around my knees and ankles. I ignored it and so did everyone else. By the age of around 12 it became virtually impossible for me to bend my legs. Competitive Karate-Ka are very flexible, we need to be but something went incredibly wrong in my case.
I used to avoid bending my knees when walking. When going up and down the stairs I remember I was trying to keep my legs as straight as possible but not lock them because they would hurt again.
These things didn’t do too much. My knees and ankles were in a constant pain day and night. Yes, ankles as well.
I was used to pain from an early age so I pushed through it in my Karate classes until I could not stand the pain anymore.
That’s when I decided to ask my parents to take me to a doctor where I did electro-therapy (not electro-shock therapy!) and took one month off training. From then on my performance went down like a boulder in a lake.
The good part was that I could walk and bend my knees without crying with pain. But they were still hurting when going up and down the stairs, sitting and standing but not at the excruciating level they used to.
And then I became a runner (why on earth…!?)
In 2007 I took up running. Knees still hurting of course. Back then I was not running like today. I didn’t even have running shoes but whatever shoes I could find home.
Here’s the thing. My knees never hurt more or less even with an inefficient running style. Running did not make things worse in my case. It didn’t make things better either.
I used to run 24k after a night out. I was fast and strong, and in some pain but still a runner.
I never went to be diagnosed though until 2013 when I had an MRI and 2 doctors told me I need surgery otherwise my knees would lock one day. I had what they call grade 3 meniscus damage.
If I had known this before 2012 I would have done the surgery. But in 2013 my life was different, as well as my running and preparation for running. And I will tell you what I did that changed the course of the story.
What is a grade 3 meniscus damage?
Meniscus tears, indicated by MRI, are classified in three grades.
Grades 1 and 2 are not considered serious. They may not even be apparent with an arthroscopic examination.
Grade 3 is a true meniscus tear and an arthroscope is close to 100% accurate in diagnosing this tear. That’s what they told me I have (or had?).
Anyway I believed with all my heart and I trusted my body so much that it could heal itself that I refused to listen to my doctors.
I decided to follow my coach who said nothing about healing my knee (he didn’t even know about it) but who taught me an even more important lesson in which I saw the slightest possibility of healing. And I will tell you what that lesson is in a moment.
In the past 2 years I learnt more about how the body functions than in 14-15 years of dealing with this pain and practicing sports.
Every time I would learn 1 thing my mind would expand and from it I would understand 7 more thing about body movement. As if that knowledge was there before but was locked in a safe.
That’s how I got to where I am today in such a short time. It’s like I was already prepared for it but I needed a key to open a safe with all that knowledge locked in. And the person who had the key was my OCR Coach.
Wait, I am not here to talk about my career but about the lesson I learnt.
Understanding and changing the way I was using my body was a critical turn point in my life. I was not interested to have my 6 packs, or keep my 50kg anymore, but all I saw was a “cure” to my lifelong pain.
And I began to see a difference went into action after 1 continuous year of natural movement and natural running. Technique, fine tuning, details for 1 year.
Changing the way I was going up and down the stairs, the way I was picking something off the floor (an empty bottle even), how I walked, talked and breathed.
Practicing body weight transfer, slow motion movement, awareness of my body in an out, balance exercises, crawls and more. All done slow and perfected with patience, perseverance and consistency. In one word DISCIPLINE.
After 1 year I began to feel, or should I say to stop feeling any type of pain in my knees. Then throughout the 2nd year, 2014, it just got better and better.
The runner I am today
Changing my running style and learning how to prepare my knees for running changed the course of the story.
Today I can run, sprint, squat, go up and down the stairs, do whatever I want without the pain I had 10 or even 5 years ago, or in 2012 for that matter.
To tell you the truth I don’t even remember how it felt. The transformation was gradual. The first year there was no big change and I was not expecting my knees to stop hurting. I liked the running style because I made me feel lighter and run faster.
The second year of the 2 was when all the pain disappeared, after doing balance exercises, learning body weight transfer, how to hold posture, how to land and relax.
So what now
So you see, running may not be the only cause of your knee pain. It comes down to how we use our bodies that determine how it feels and works in the end.
Do I still have meniscus damage? Maybe, maybe not. The fact is that my knees don’t lock and don’t hurt anymore. According to my rules I am healed when I was not expecting to heal.
Added to the change in how I use my body I also did a few bioenergy sessions which helped unlock my body’s natural healing process. But it was not enough to heal then like this.
However I believe that 90% of my healing came from how I used my body and not expecting to heal. The true cure is treating the causes not the symptoms, I believe.
I believe that even if I had surgery that damage would have occurred again and again because I had no idea what caused it and how to change the cause.
And I will continue to heal in the years to come. The process is not over.
I am not asking anyone to believe that if you do what I did will heal you. But I do encourage you to use your body more efficiently.
Please make sure you talk to your doctor before taking any decision. This is my experience and there are my opinions.
If you want to learn more please book a consultation to talk about you.