Physical Health

Almost a CATastrophe

Yes, pun intended! If you follow me on social media (Facebook and/or Instagram), you are already aware of some of the details I’m about to share, but I still wanted it “documented” for the record, so I can “consult the blog” in the future the next time a doctor asked “when is the last time you had trouble with this knee?”

So, about two weeks ago, on Wednesday, January 17, we were watching Percy Jackson. Because so many of the scenes are SO DARK, we had the lights dimmed. When I got up to turn the lights back up, the cats attempted to murder me.

The “attempted murder” weapon

Okay, fine, maybe not. But they *had* left this mouse toy on the rug, which I didn’t/couldn’t see in the dimly lit den (medium gray mouse on medium tan carpet in not much light is very hard to see). It’s hard plastic, maybe 1.5 inches (4 cm) long. It has a 1 inch (2.5 cm) steel ball bearing inside of it and a hole in the bottom of the mouse casing, so it rolls easily across the hardwood floors. Kylo and Rey both like to play with it, though it is usually Kylo who carries it by the tail. And because I couldn’t see it, I accidentally stepped on it.

Surprisingly, I wobbled a little, but I didn’t lose my balance. I also didn’t twist, torque, roll, or otherwise hurt my knee or my ankle. My foot hurt from the physical contact with the very hard mouse casing, like stepping on a LEGO, but there didn’t seem to be any resulting injury. Nothing popped or twisted or hurt once I stepped off of it. I didn’t fall down or fall dramatically to one side and have to “catch” myself with my legs or arms or anything, which is actually atypical. In fact, everything seemed fine. So I went about the rest of my evening and didn’t think anything of it.

Until I woke up the next morning. Putting any kind of weight on my right leg/knee HURT. For a moment, I couldn’t think of anything I had done. Then I remembered the mouse. But still, it didn’t seem like that had actually done anything, you know? Like I said, no loss of balance, nothing twisted or popped. Everything seemed perfectly fine the previous evening. But it was the only weird physical thing that had happened in weeks or months, so maybe I really had done something without realizing it at the time?

This is not my first (or second or fifth) round with some sort of knee or ankle injury, so I’m pretty well versed in what to do. I took it easy and started taking over the counter NSAIDs (Aleve for me, as recommended by my doctor several years ago). Walking was very painful, so I hobbled, but I tried to be as gentle as I could. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I tried to stay off of it and let it be. It did get somewhat better, and I didn’t want to miss two movies that were sure to leave the theater after that weekend, so we spent most of Sunday at the movies. That was a mistake that I paid dearly for on Monday! My knee was so aggravated, even just walking/hobbling down the hall in my house made me want to cry. So I decided to stay off of it almost completely and see how things went.

After three days of literally only getting up to go from the bedroom to the den and back or to use the restroom, plus taking Aleve religiously on schedule, things were not improving as much as they should have been based on previous experience with minor joint injuries. Sigh. Time to speak with a professional. I made an appointment with my regular doctor for Friday, January 26. She asked a bunch of questions and pressed here and there (OUCH!!). Based on what had happened and the location of the pain, she figured it was probably either a Baker’s cyst or a torn ligament, most likely the LCL (lateral collateral ligament), not to be confused with the MCL, ACL, or PCL (medial collateral, anterior cruciate, and posterior cruciate, respectively). The only way to know for sure would be an MRI. She also prescribed me some pain medication and steroids to help reduce the inflammation.

I called the MRI place as I left her office on Friday (don’t worry, Steve was driving!). They had appointments available Monday evening, effectively the “next business day,” which was much earlier than anticipated. Stayed off my knee all weekend, though things were much improved after two days of steroids. Completed the MRI Monday night (I had an 8:30 PM appointment!), report was issued by the radiologist on Tuesday, and my doctor called me back on Wednesday. It is definitely NOT a good thing when the PA who used to work for an orthopedist says , “girl, you’ve got a LOT going on in there!” Great. The verdict? The MRI showed a torn meniscus. (That’s the cartilage disc between the kneecap and lower leg bones; the blue thing in the above image, except mine isn’t nearly that thick due to degeneration.) Um, I’m sorry, that wasn’t one of the choices! The report even specifically stated that all of ligaments were fully intact, so that was good. She referred me to an orthopedic doctor who specializes in knees, but she did warn me that it probably meant some level of surgery, even if it was just a scope and “clean up” of the “pokey things” aggravating the joint and surrounding tissue. Given that I have travel plans in early April (that I have literally had on the books for 7 years, and no, I can’t exactly reschedule the total solar eclipse!), this is NOT at all what I wanted to hear!

Miraculously, the orthopedist had an opening the next day, Thursday (today). I knew they would do x-rays, and I fully expected to be scheduled for some level of surgery by the time I left the office today. Much to my surprise, the doctor didn’t feel like surgery is needed at this point. The knee x-rays they did were actually of both knees, not just my right one. Comparing the two, they have very much the same “look” to them: the same level of arthritis, the same thinning/compression of the meniscus, just all-over similar wear and tear. There is no visual indication that the right knee is “damaged” any worse than the left knee, except for the pain and swelling. Based on my description of the incident, that there was no immediate pain in the area and that there was no pop or twist or anything else, he thinks my meniscus was already torn (weeks, months, possibly years ago) and that stepping on the mouse toy just aggravated it. “I don’t think surgery would actually solve the pain problem you are having right now, and surgery comes with its own risks, so I don’t see the need to go that route at the moment.” He did mention that with “everything else” going on with my knees, I am a *very* likely candidate for knee replacement(s) in the future, but “you’re nowhere near that point yet.”

As for the present pain situation, he gave me a cortisone injection in my knee (no, I will NOT be sharing a diagram of that; it even gives me the willies, and I grew up around medical stuff). I’ve never had a cortisone shot before, and quite frankly, I would *really* prefer to never have one again. It was incredibly unpleasant (it did include “numbing medicine” as well, so things definitely could have been worse), but if it means no surgery in the immediate future, then I’ll take it for now. He said once the numbing wears off, it will be sore for a couple of days. I should rest it as much as possible for the next 48 hours, then I can resume walking normally as much as the pain allows. He discouraged lateral movement (side to side, like basketball, haha), but “light activity” is fine. Things should gradually improve over the next few weeks. He also prescribed 6 weeks of physical therapy to try and strengthen the muscles around the knee/kneecap. I’ll call later to get that scheduled. Hopefully, that will return my knee to the status it was in prior to “the mouse incident,” which was an acceptable level of movement/pain, or at least one that I am accustomed to. If the intense pain returns in the next few weeks or months, we will re-evaluate.

And I should definitely avoid stepping on any mice in the future.

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