I’m a forty-something, never-thin woman who started playing tennis about four years ago. After a few years of playing two to five times a week, I started paying the piper for my enthusiasm — knee pain.
A couple of ibuprofen when I got home from the courts turned into pre-game ibuprofen, an ice pack ready in the freezer, and knee braces. On bad days I had to beg an ice pack from the girl behind the counter at the YMCA.
A search for “knee pain” on the United States Tennis Association site reads, “The pain you are describing could be from a number of things including tendinitis or arthritis. Playing exclusively on hard courts forces your knees to take quite a beating.”(1)
Tennis on hard courts + being awesome at tennis (not really) + age + overweight is a recipe for knee problems.
Surrendering to the Medical Profession
When your knee swells up up to the size of a cantaloupe, even if you’re not a fan of doctors, you’ll probably go to one.
This is what it took for me to finally make an appointment with a primary care physician a year ago. She requested an MRI which my insurance refused. Fine.
“I could refer you to a specialist.” Meh. Another doctor. No thanks. I can still play tennis.
Fast forward a year. Depressing the accelerator during the 25-minute drive home from the Y sent my right knee throbbing unbearably.
Even when I hadn’t just played tennis, driving more than five or 10 minutes became unmanageable and unsafe as I leaned on the steering wheel moaning at 65 mph while rubbing my knee.
At home, despite over-the-counter pain relievers and ice, I found I couldn’t rise from a sitting position. My knee throbbed in the night, disrupting my sleep. I slowed down considerably, needing more help around the house.
“Can we get Chinese tonight?" I'd ask from the sofa.
"Can you bring me a glass of water?" I'd ask from bed.
My husband insisted I see an orthopedist, maybe out of concern for me, maybe out of a desire for home-cooked meals.
Here’s how that went:
“Oh, my, what perfume are you wearing?” That’s the first thing the orthopedist ever said to me.
“Um ... Eternity ...”