Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Tale of Two Doctors

ORN: zero

The severity of my right knee pain during and after last weekend’s marathon attempt, coupled with the stubborn continuation of the knee pain ever since the Portland Marathon on Oct 1 prompted me to get a real medical opinion on the situation. And it has proven most instructive.

Just after 12 noon on Monday, I had a break at work and called my regular doctor’s office for an appointment. He’s an internist, not a sports med guy, yet in our insurance system, he is also the gatekeeper to further help. Amazingly, he had an opening at 1pm and so I skeedaddled across town to see him.

At a physical about a month or so ago, he was very complementary of my blood pressure/resting heart rate combo. When I presented on Monday with knee pain, however, he was a little less certain. He plopped me on the exam table, yanked, poked, pushed and twisted. He seemed to think I didn’t have a major injury but then asked “Would you like to see a sports med doc?” Yeah, I would. So, he wrote up a referral. Then he asked “How old are you?” Fifty-three. He looked a little patronizingly at me and said “Well, you know, as one ages, one can’t always do the things one wants to do physically.” Oh my. Anyway, I had my referral.

The sports doc had a slot open for me on Wednesday, which I took. What a difference. He’s an orthopedist and is well connected with Purdue and local High School athletics. On the wall of his practice were photos of all sorts of sports teams and track/cross country runners. I took my running logs and the last two pairs of shoes I’ve used. When he came into the room, he immediately realized I liked to run and wanted to continue to run. He asked about my weekly mileage. He did the same poking and prodding and then sent me down the hallway for an x-ray of my right knee. He got the films, brought them into the room and walked through the anatomy of my knee with me, treating me as an intelligent person.

His diagnosis was clear. No damage at all to the knee. The pain was clearly an ITB inflammation. The path ahead?? Some physical therapy with a therapist who specializes in runners, a couple weeks of rest, perhaps an orthotic to shift the angle of how my knee aligns at foot strike. I asked about my shoes, since I switched to the adidas Supernova a couple weeks after Portland. He examined my old Brooks Adrenalines, then the adidas, and said “Hey, the Brooks were working…you should go back to them.” Which was what I was thinking anyway.

He then shook my hand, looked me in the eye and said “Keep running. Don’t stop. You are not hurting yourself. Stay with it.”

Doctors have an amazing task. The human body is so complex and the study of medicine so vast that no single physician can know everything about everything. My doc is darn good at internal medicine and I’ll trust him with my blood work and stomach pain. But it sure was good to connect with a doc who could relate to my interests in running.

I’m encouraged. And persevering.


backofpack said...

That's good news! I'm glad it's something therapy can fix.

Darrell said...

How great to find a doc that can diagnose the body of a runner and actually understands the mindset as well.

Hearing those words "Keep running" has got to be encouraging. Those words may never have passed the lips or even crossed the mind of the first doc.

I'll be hoping for the best possible outcome.

Anonymous said...

Good news, Joe! Be patient and you'll be on the road again soon!


Wes said...

“Well, you know, as one ages, one can’t always do the things one wants to do physically.”

Tell that to the dude that came in first in his age group at Ironman Brazil, 71-75 age groupers....

Good news on the knee! My Dee Dee just went through that same process except her inside (interior) knee is inflamed a bit. Good luck with the recovery.

susie said...

Joe, I'm just catching up here. First, glad you used your head in the race and stopped. Now that you know what it is, be reassured that is can be fixed. I know! I do continue to roll on my foam and do my exercises, buy the ITB can be controlled. Good luck. You'll be back soon:)

Anonymous said...

Good for you to go onto the sportsmed Dr. SOme MDs are so ignorant to the many benefits of running. My friend had a stress fracture of her spine 2 weeks after running the Chicago marathon last year. Her local MD said STOP RUNNING, Her MDs at Northwestern felt it could have been worse if not from all her training strength. This year she ran Chicago again.

Sarah said...

So glad to hear you're getting some answers. That's great your doc was so supportive. : ) Good luck with your therapy!

robtherunner said...

That's good to hear Joe. I'm sure you will be back before you know it.

David said...

I enjoyed reading your doc stories. Besides the PT, I will throwm in my 2-cents and promote massage as well. I find it most useful. It goes right to the problem and breaks it down immediately.

George said...

Joe - Next time I need to find a Doc, I want to find one who is a runner, or at least is still athletic. I hear to many stories about docs trying to get runners to hang up the shoes.

Hey, if I can't go at the second coming, I want to go on a long run, in my 90's!