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 ...”
1) Knee Injuries. USTA.com. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
2) Hyaluronic Acid Injections for Osteoarthritis. Arthritis.org. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
3) Interview with Andrew Gaetano. August 23, 2016.
4) Socioeconomic status and the course and consequences of chronic pain. FutureMedicine.com. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
5)Use of Corticosteroids in Osteoarthritis. Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
6) Hyaluronic Acid (By injection). NIH.gov. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
7) Understanding Chronic Pain. InstituteforChronicPain.org. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
8) Who Are Physical Therapists? APTA.org. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
9) Meet The Capital Area Physical Therapy & Wellness Team. Capitalareapt.com. Retrieved August 30, 2016.