Many years ago, when I first met Susan Findlay, owner/director at NLSSM school of massage in London, she told me she would like me to offer a course on knees. I responded that I didn’t feel I did good work with knees, but focused on getting better hips and ankles; then knees seemed to get better on their own. Her response: “If you’re not comfortable with knees, that’s the course you need to teach!” At the time, I wasn’t pleased with her response; I’ve come to see the value in it since.
I’ve recently given myself an opportunity to test my theories about bodywork, much more strongly than I might have liked. A few days ago I severely injured my right knee….working for several hours on a friend’s cold concrete floor, with lots of kneeling and twisting. After several hours with just the right twist, I heard a loud ‘pop’ and felt that my knee was very unhappy. As far as I could self-diagnose, it seemed I’d either damaged my lateral collateral ligament or torn the lateral aspect of the meniscus. Either way, I couldn’t put weight into the knee, couldn’t bend or flex, and couldn’t get comfortable for quite some time.
Background: for the past several weeks I’ve been working with David Berceli’s Trauma Release exercises, and I think have been making great progress in getting my left leg restored to function. That’s the leg that was injured most in the plane wreck I survived in 1987. Since then, I’ve damaged both knees on several occasions; it was in my head that I’d get my feet, legs and knees to match each other and function more fully together by using Berceli’s work, and I believe that is/was happening. Perhaps some of the stretching I was doing also prepared me a bit too well! I was really chasing my toe and ankle hinges to give me more lift in my toe pushups; and overdoing is always a possibility when one works at self-improvement.
Anyway, what an amazing opportunity to self-rehabilitate! And I’m pleased to say it’s working: 48 hours after the initial shock, I was back to about 75% function in that knee, and continuing to feel stronger by the hour. I think the ‘formula’ that’s working for me gives us all something to think about. While I can now negotiate lifting myself up a step through that leg and knee, I can’t yet sink through the knee without a great deal of pain, and I don’t see the value of too much pain.
So what’s working? Why am I getting better, without MRI’s and surgery? First, I’ve not pushed myself too fast or too far…there’s very little twisting involved, and precious little bending and flexing yet. I’m only beginning to trust myself to give a bit of flexion while still doing most of the the lifting work through my arms, and I have a pretty good sense of what’s too much and what’s just right in terms of the paces I put myself through. The big toe pushups, again and still remain the single most important piece of work I can find to rehabilitate the entire line, but especially the knee. Second, I’m always interested in breathing, or at least in staying relaxed while I work to rehabilitate. When I push too far and too fast, I stop breathing. It’s that simple. Third, I tend to want to look for longer lines of transmission in my body. I’m as interested in what’s happening in my big toe on that foot, and what’s going on in my low back, as I am in what the knee itself has to say.
And last, I do subscribe to the ‘use it or lose it’ school of thought. I’ve seen too many frozen shoulders or creaky knees where patrons told me that it hurt if they moved, so they quit moving. Well, how does one expect to get better if one hides from the challenge? While I can understand the thought process, I can’t condone it. We must move through pain and fear to get to the other side! I truly believe that too much of what we call debilitating is simply fear-based lack of movement into and through a problem spot. And so far, this experience is bearing me out on that thought.
So, the good news: another learning experience, another healing, another opportunity to practice what I preach. While I’d prefer to not put myself into these situations, I’m thrilled that I can still find my way out of them. I’m slowly returning to a regular climbing of stairs and full range of movement through the knee hinge, and it’s coming. I believe all of us could be inspired to slowly but with purpose, move into and through the pain and fear, and return to function and joy.