I have a bum right knee. It all started in 1968, with a football injury. My last knee surgery on that knee was 1995. It doesn’t hurt very often, but it doesn’t always work so well. Watching me run is painful by itself. I think the Maryville High football coaches have a video somewhere of me running onto the football field. It isn’t pretty.

I was taught in physical therapy school not to refer to a body part as a “bad knee” or a “bum shoulder.” Too much negative connotation. Instead we were to only use positive adjectives. Much preferred was “affected ankle” or “injured back.” Somehow that body part had a life of its own. Or maybe it was just sensitive or something. I don’t know.

The bottom line is that my right knee just doesn’t work well. I can walk well (although sometimes with a bit of a limp) and bike all day. My wife and I go on some pretty tough hikes and with the help of trekking poles, I do quite well, if I do say so myself.

But if you see me running, you better run yourself. Something big and bad is chasing me. All you’ve got to do is outrun me, which won’t be too hard. When I run it looks something like a cross between a duck with arthritis and an ex-football player with a bum knee (oh yeah…that’s me).

The good news is, it really doesn’t hurt. I suspect that I could be considered for total knee replacement but my good friends the orthopedic surgeons at Ortho Tennessee-Maryville (what used to be called Maryville Orthopedic Clinic) don’t recommend it until it hurts more.

So, what got me to this point and why doesn’t it hurt? I’m not going to blame sports for my knee problems (although my first and second knee injuries…OK, and my third…were from football). I’ve had great knees most of my life. I did play basketball until I was 59 but for decades it was mostly half court and no one would blame my (lack of) vertical for lots of pounding.

I suppose you could look at the candles on my birthday cake. It looks like a small bonfire these days. Since my parents are gone I could blame it on them. Bad gene pool and all that. But as far as I know, they never had much in the way of joint problems.

My dad did have a motorcycle wreck one time and hurt his knee. For some reason I remember that it was his left knee and that injury was probably 60 years ago. It’s also why he never wanted me to own a motorcycle.

It is part of my job to figure out what is wrong with knees but my own right knee remains a mystery. At least the part of how it got to this point. I just don’t think I’ve done enough damage through injuries to get to this point.

As for why that bum right knee doesn’t hurt, I’m going to attribute that to time on the bike and staying fit. Exercise is not a sometime thing for me. It is an every day thing for me. Biking, lifting weights, CrossFit workouts. At least once a week I do knee rehab at my clinic. Hiking on the weekends. Definitely an active lifestyle.

Maybe I’m just lucky. If I were to look at an X-ray of my right knee, it would likely look awful. But I take Vitamin I (ibuprofen) very rarely and can’t remember the last time I put ice on it. I give Dr. Ken Bell a lot of credit. He’s operated on both my knees and obviously has done great work. And he keeps me motivated with his own exploits in the fitness world.

What I do know, professionally and personally, that if we stay fit, keep our weight under control, listen to our body, and stay away from junk food, we will be healthier and happier. And maybe we won’t hurt as much.

Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Email joeblackdpt@gmail.com to write to him.

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