Friday, 29 August 2014

Rafa and Me

There is much I don't share with Rafael Nadal: a great forehand, latin good looks, vast wealth... but there is one thing we have in common - Hoffa's Impingement. This is the very knee injury that Rafa had last year, which curtailed his season so painfully. But, after an extensive programme of treatment, he came back as strong as ever this year. I'm doing my best to emulate him.

My new physio doesn't believe in treatment machines, she prefers to get to grips with your flesh with her powerful fingers and arms. Earlier this week, I lay on the treatment table and she began to manipulate my knee. Then she pointed her elbow, placed it on my patella tendon, leant her weight onto it and started to rub very hard from side to side. I gasped and gritted my teeth, red-hot knives were shooting across my knee.

'Is that your pain?' she asked.

'Aooow,' I howled in assent, thinking she would stop.

'Good,' she said, digging her elbow in further.

'Really, really hurts,' I gasped, gripping the sides of the table as my body began to shake.

'Don't worry,' she said cheerily, 'it'll go numb in a minute or so.'

'Aooow,' I howled again, sweat coursing down my face. It felt like she was trying to saw my leg off. I kept wishing I had a piece of wood to bite on.

'Gone numb yet?' she asked

'Yes, yes,' I moaned, thankfully.

'Fine,' she said, moving her elbow to a fresh part of my tendon and the intense pain began again.

After what seemed an age, she stopped and left the cubicle to get something. I lay back on the treatment table, took some deep breaths and tried to relax. My patella tendon was throbbing, but numb. No ball-boy came to proffer barley-water, banana or towel. I sighed. My physio returned and strapped my knee. The treatment was over, until next week.

I may never reach SW19 or trouble Hawkeye. At this point, all I want to be able to do is to walk to the bottom of the lane outside my house without pain.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Hoffa's Impingement

I've been given the results of the scan on my knee. I'm very pleased and surprised to find that my cartilages and ligaments aren't damaged. I went for the scan because my local Physiotherapist thought I had torn a cartilage. Happily, I do not need an operation. But I am still in pain. At this point, the Osteopathic Surgeon seemed to lose interest and handed me over to another Physiotherapist for further treatment.

What the scan did show is that I have swelling inside the knee joint, inflammation of the tendons that attach to the kneecap and some misalignment of the kneecap itself. But my primary problem is Hoffa's Impingement. This is where the large pad that fits between the ends of the shin and thigh bones (and behind the kneecap) gets pinched and inflamed inside the joint. This pad is the most sensitive part of the knee, having more nerve endings than any other, and gives an excruciatingly painful injury. When my knee is bad, it feels like red-hot knives are being stuck into me.

After two months of pain, confusion and disappointment, I'm relieved to finally get to the bottom of the knee problem. The treatment for this injury is frequent icing (I have two large packs of frozen peas that do the job three or four times a day), stopping the activities that cause the pinching of the pad (for me this means most walking and standing) and taping the kneecap to restrict its range of movement.

The next step is a programme of special exercises to strengthen some leg muscles and to stretch others, in order to achieve healthy alignment of the knee. Some of these exercises are quite odd, like squeezing a football between your ankles and doing gentle squats with the ball between your knees. My current exercise programme takes over half an hour and I need to do this twice a day. All being well, my knee should recover in a couple more months.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

My Long Lost Pal

Out of the blue, I got a message from Patrick. We were the best of mates at primary school. Patrick lived along the canal from me at Bridgend, near the small town of Stonehouse in Gloucestershire. I lost touch with him aged nine, when we moved house to the other side of the county. 

We used to play together along the canal tow-path and across the fields and railway line that separated us from the town. Yes, we grew up (literally) on the other side of the tracks. Patrick's family had a TV (mine didn't) and I used to go home with him after school to watch cartoons. I recall us eating sarnies and shouting at the screen. The Lone Ranger was another favourite of ours.
We walked to primary school down a lane, across a main road, over a railway line and along a footpath to the iron railings that guarded the school. It was a journey of about a mile and a half each way and we did this every day without adult supervision. The school was Victorian in its construction: there was a bell in a turret above the main entrance, with separate doors for boys and girls. And in its ethos: you would be beaten regularly, on pretty much any pretext. I recall being caned one day for failing to eat my pudding. I still hate tapioca.
Patrick now lives in Orkney, so other than through Facebook, there was little chance of us encountering one another again. I must admit I can easily live without the pictures of cute animals and obscure homilies that seem to represent the majority of the traffic on the site. But putting you in touch with someone who you lost contact with fifty years ago, that's a real achievement.

Stonehouse Primary School, outside the main building at break.
Picture courtesy of Stonehouse History Group, date uncertain (late 1940's - early 1950's, I'm guessing).