A beautiful rainy day in Northern California. What a relief! Speaking of relief, I saw a client for the first time today with a knee that had had ACL reconstruction many years ago. His left leg was bowed and appeared “gimpy” (not a professional term!) He walked with a bandy-legged gait, and gave the impression of being older than his 59 years. He lacked about 15 degrees of bending (compared with his other knee) He had the kind of pain that could be ignored, but it was obvious from his movements that he favored it, especially navigating stairs. His MRI showed the “bone-on-bone” that you hear so much about. (Doesn’t that just sound awful? Makes you want to succumb to surgery right away, doesn’t it?) Geez… what to do with all of that?
Well, lucky for my client, I do know what to do with it! In my experience, the reason for the demise of cartilage (what protects us from the bone-on-bone scenario) is the same thing that contributes to the pain that surfaces when the cartilage is gone: following the surgical intervention of the ACL repair the joint surfaces never really went back to their original configuration, meaning that the “puzzle pieces” didn’t interlock in the same way.
With the knee, that is especially agregious. The knee is categorized as a “hinge” joint, meaning, like a door, it only opens one way (how many ways do you know to open a door?) It is especially sensitive to alignment troubles. When I make subtle adjustments to a knee like this client’s, it is remarkable what happens! When the knee returns to its original relationship (think: puzzle piece interlocking) then the pain disappears, the range of motion returns (even though it hasn’t’ been there since the surgery many years ago), and the bow of his leg improved. That’s only 1 session. With more session work, what he can expect is understanding how to keep his knee in the pain-free, easy range, make certain adjustments to maintain the alignment and his knee could last many years without total knee replacement surgery!