Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Dealing With an Injury... Again *UPDATE*

Exactly two weeks ago I fractured my left kneecap.

It happened during my morning workout. I was preparing to do pull-ups using a doorway pull-up bar, something I've been doing for more than 10 years. Apparently that morning I got careless and didn't properly secure the bar, because on my first pull-up both the bar and I came crashing down. My left knee took the brunt of the impact.

It didn't take long for my knee to swell up massively. Had both knees been injured, I would have looked like Torgo. I proceeded to do all the RICE things you're supposed to do after sustaining an injury, i.e. rest, ice, compression, and elevation. That helped, and the swelling went down, though the first two or three days after my fall were quite unpleasant. Sitting down and standing up were very painful, and descending stairs was agony. 

By the fourth or fifth day, my knee felt better though it still hurt. Gradually the pain went from being sharp and acute to being more of a dull ache. After 10 days I was concerned that my knee still didn't feel right, so I finally went to a doctor. An X-ray revealed that I had indeed fractured my kneecap. Recovery time is around six weeks. Due to the nature of the fracture, there isn't much that can be done, though I am going to visit a knee specialist to make sure nothing else is awry.

Interestingly, the doctor was shocked that I was moving as well as I was and didn't seem to be in debilitating pain. I don't mention that to imply I'm some sort of "pain don't hurt" badass (OK, maybe a little...), but because I think it reflects positively on my training protocols. I suspect that yoga along with exercises such as Turkish get-ups, Hindu squats, and burpees have strengthened the muscles and tendons around my knee. My limp mostly went away fairly quickly, and I never had to resort to using a cane, even though as a stick-fighter I would have welcomed the opportunity to do so. (I should add that I own four or five canes.)

And speaking of "pain don't hurt".... A self-defense lesson from this experience: Pain is not always a reliable fight stopper. I was in a great deal of pain immediately after I fell, but still managed to do a few rounds of heavy kettlebell swings. Smart? Probably not, but the point is that I could do it, that I could work through the pain. So could a predator intent on causing you harm. 

I've mostly taken a break from training, but plan to resume soon, with some necessary modifications. Despite having a good incident-free 10 years with doorway pull-up bars, I'm a little paranoid about using them again. Maybe it's PTSD, but if I do pull-ups it will be at the park. At home I'll stick to cable rows. Turkish get-ups and Hindu squats are off the menu for the foreseeable future. Gentle yoga is fine, as are push-ups and moderate swings. Any martial arts training will be limited to simple Kali stick and knife drills. (By the way, Filipino martial arts have much to offer someone who is injured or has mobility issues.)

Diet-wise, I'm eliminating alcohol and drastically cutting back on caffeine, as both can potentially interfere with the body's ability to absorb calcium and affect bone health. I'm also consuming more protein and calcium to aid with healing. For the discomfort, I take the occasional aspirin* (other painkillers spike my blood pressure) and drink plenty of ginger and turmeric tea. 

(For my adventures with a herniated disc, click here.)

* Update: I had a visit with an orthopedic surgeon and joint specialist yesterday. He verified that my knee is indeed fractured. However, there doesn't appear to be any damage to the surrounding tendons or ligaments. I have an appointment for additional X-rays in four weeks. By then I should be more or less back to normal. One interesting thing I learned during the visit is that many common painkillers—such as naproxen, ibuprofen, and yes, aspirin—can interfere with a broken bone's ability to heal. Acetaminophen, however, is fine.