I spend my days running from room to room seeing patients. My weekends chasing my children. While trying to sneak in time to exercise and improve my health. And also time punishing my body with chips and occasional IPAs.
But you never see the change in your joints coming and then it is there. I took a step. Felt a shearing force in my knee. I was not jumping or hurdling but something funny happened. I continue my day and pretend that I am fine.
Then the next day walking to a patient room I feel my knee give out. Luckily my peripheral nerves, cerebellum and my vestibular center are still intact. I do not fall. Immediately I feel a click and realize that this joint is now swollen. Fluid pushing posteriorly. There is no Baker’s cyst but I am sure that I have an effusion.
There is not pain but I realize that my knee has failed me. I do not have my partner prescribe me Percocet. I do not stop working. I push through because that is what we are taught to do. I ice my knee and use the occasional ibuprofen. It is now 2 weeks later and I have still not had it examined. I have been ignoring and hoping it will go away.
I often am surprised when patients are not able to explain their pain. I give them descriptive options if they cannot come up with a description on their own – sharp, achy, lancinating, burning, throbbing, crushing, gnawing, tingling, dull and more. Yet I cannot even describe how my own knee feels. It is not pain but discomfort. Yet discomfort is a type of pain. It feels tight. I cannot feel tearing along my tibial plateau. I cannot tell if it is patella vs medial.
I worry that I have torn my meniscus. I am a trained physician. Yet all I can think about is how my body has failed me. Will it heal on its own? When do I get an MRI? Will I ever play basketball again? Should my weekend runs come to an end? Was this an acute tear or degenerative? Could I be that old that I have a degenerative meniscal tear? I have started some PT and hope everyday that the effusion will have disappear. But it has not.
But if a patient came in with this complaint it would be a simple visit. I could get a history, examine and create a plan in a few minutes. I would ask the patient if they had any questions, while hoping the answer was no. But I am the patient. And it feels so different and yet it is not even a scary medical issue that I am dealing with.
If I feel this way, I cannot imagine how patients feel. I realize I need patients to ask me more questions because they have them. They have concerns and fears. As do I. Now that I have finished writing about my fears maybe it is time for me to see a doctor.
The Doc Is In
So I saw you today for my nerve pain and I too have a terrible time describing my pain and often feel like it can’t be real if I can’t effectively communicate how it feels. Today I probably described the pain better than I ever have. Crawling things on my scapula. Fireworks shooting from my elbow. Loss of feeling in my fingers. Maybe because there have been days that it’s excruciating but I too power thru work because it’s what I do. But I too am too young for this. Thanks for being a fantastic Dr!
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