Nigel played a lot of sport at school.
When I say a lot, he was in just about every sports team possible, apart from the slow moving and mind numbing (just a personal opinion!) sport of cricket. Although, in hindsight long hours of fielding might have been more advantageous to Nigel than pounding his legs around a hot athletics track.
In Baz Luhrmann’s words from the iconic ‘Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen’,
“Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.”
Nigel is beginning to realise just how true these lyrics are.
Your knees are powerhouses. They’re the biggest, strongest, joints in your body and bear 80% of your body weight when you stand still and 150% or more when you walk across a room. That means every step a 200-pound man takes will put 300 pounds of force on his knees!
Knees are very much taken for granted until the day you wake up and they fail to hinge without pain. Acute panic sets in at the prospect of needing a Zimmer frame by the age of 60 unless you book in for a knee replacement pronto.
Nigel’s story and the beginning to the end of his healthy knees tracks all the way back to his first love, rugby. At the age of 17 Nigel had already found his favourite sport to watch and play and turning up at a charity pub match, drinking several pints and then facing monolithic giants on the pitch was a regular Saturday pastime. At one of these charity matches Nigel sized up to his friend’s older brother who weighed in at a whopping 18 stone, who blocked the perfect try by side tackling Nigel to the ground. The force from this hulk of a man was enough to stretch the whole right knee joint and the ACL to whole new lengths.
Nigel was left slightly defeated and extremely sore after that match. His knee was painful for some weeks after and needed lots of rest and copious bags of ice. The natural healing process took it’s good and proper time and Nigel’s knee seemed to get better. Until that is the school’s house championship basketball match, Nigel was House captain and the team were losing – so in a desperate, yet hopeful plea to turn the match around – Nigel jumped straight in, scored a basket and then landed in a big heap.
His contentment with ‘taking one for the team’ quickly ebbed when he realised his old friend ‘knee pain’ was back again.
Nigel started having Physio with Audrey at Ruislip Rugby club. Audrey was an old school physio and had been volunteering at the club for years. She suggested getting an old bike inner tube and doing leg exercises at home with it. The leg exercises consisted of standing on one leg and stretching your other leg with the tube whilst the other end of the tube was tied to a table. Crazy, huh?! How could a bike inner tube help a struggling athlete? But it did! The knee repaired and strengthened with the help of a couple of temporary cartilage surgeries as well and Nigel carried on playing rugby.
Fast forward 30+ years and in the process Nigel has had to say goodbye to contact sports (resigned to watching them with a beer instead) but skiing is one of Nigel’s other great passions – the stress on the knee while skiing is immense but he has managed to keep up this passion ever since childhood. You may have read one of our latest pieces about skiing the Valley Blanche which is the longest off-piste run, he managed to survive that and the staircase climb! Survived is the word – the knee definitely didn’t feel very thriving afterwards!
Recently, like dear old friends, Nigel’s left knee has come out in sympathy for his right knee. Another cause of this ache could be down to kick starting an old motorbike with his left leg and the motor bike kicking back at him.
For two or three months, Nigel has struggled to walk pain-free and more stressful than that, he has been waking up with acute pain at 2am every day, not to mention a curious lump that swells up behind the knee once in a while.
His wife made him go to the doctor, who confirmed it’s not the ligaments. What a relief – his ski adventures are not over yet! Next stop was a visit to the Physio, due to Nigel’s ability to do squats, the physio was unsure of the exact reason for such acute pain and referred Nigel to have an MRI scan. Nigel is still waiting…
In the meantime, as a result of all the professional advice, Nigel decided to make some changes. His knee seemed to get worse after long stints of sitting behind a desk all day. To remedy this he bought a standing desk converter to fit on his original desk to alternate between standing and sitting – this has made a great difference!
The other thing he did was to find a local Thai massage place (you may chuckle!) but it really has helped enormously. Nigel hobbles in but walks out. The power of massage is really understated. The massage lady attacks the knee joint with laser focus which at times is very painful but definitely works by dissipating the fluid that has built up.
Nigel has continued to swim the entire time and water offers some relief. On one cold water swim the lump behind the knee, which was bigger than usual that day, completely disappeared after the swim – cold water is known to help with circulation which is possibly why.
Best of all, Nigel found “themotionguy” on Instagram, and guess what he uses for his work out? No, not the bike inner tube, but something quite similar, large rubber bands! Nigel was so desperate to get walking and participate in golf and other activities that he purchased a band and now does a couple of the exercises 2 to 3 times a day on both legs – he can already feel the difference.
If only Nigel had paid more attention to Audrey’s advice all those years ago.
Where we start we will end, on another nugget of Baz Luhrmann’s sage advice,
“Be careful whose advice you buy but be patient with those who supply it”
If only Nigel had been more patient with listening to an older, wiser and more well informed person, it might have saved him years of pain.
If you have knee pain definitely do something about it now if you can. Nobody really wants a replacement joint. If you are overweight and can lose weight then that will make a big difference. Swimming is a gentler exercise and the bands are a brilliant way of giving your knees a full workout without the stress.
Whether it's a car, fridge or house, wear and tear occurs on everything. Fortunately, the aforementioned are easily repaired or replaced, depending on the damage, so are your knees depending on the NHS waiting list!. Thankfully I'm not at that stage yet, but I'll try to remain as active as possible, with the "use it or lose it" mentality. One day, my knees like the rest of our bodies will decide to give up and I'll be thankful that I made the most of mine!.
Knees and hips are so important to keep healthy, the bands sound an excellent idea that you can do anywhere. Weight is also so important to loose for healthy knees as well, just any little bit you can shed will help.