Tuesday, June 21, 2005

How I healed my own knee

Let me start off by saying that I did not tear any tendons or ligaments. But I did experience chronic knee pain for about 8 months.

The injury began at a gym when I was doing an exercise incorrectly. Plyometric jumping is a great way to increase explosive power. The drill I was doing involved holding a 10-lb. medicine ball and jumping one legged onto a 24”-high box. I jumped a few too many times and was getting tired. Instead of stopping I kept pushing for more. I didn’t really notice any significant pain until the next day. Of course I still worked out the next day—which isn’t a bad thing per se, but again I pushed myself too hard. This is a great recipe for injury. Now I know when to back off and not feel guilty about it.

A knee injury is particularly bad for a Tai Chi practitioner. The whole point of Tai Chi is to have root or stability. How can you be stable with a bad knee? And to top that, I teach 6 Tai Chi classes per week. The pain in my knee was real sharp on the bottom right of my left patella. I talked informally to a physical therapist who comes to my workplace. He said it wasn’t torn but sounded more like a repetitive motion injury. He suggested a few leg curls on machines, which I tried, but it didn’t really help much. I tried Glucosamine-Condroitan for 2 months. That helped some but still didn’t take it to an unnoticeable level. I then tried eating a lot of cherries, which are reportedly good for inflammation. That worked pretty well, but there was still a missing link.

It wasn’t until I spoke with a friend who is in her 30’s who has been diagnosed with early arthritis. She had a book that helped her called “Heal Your Own Knee.” I read it in a day, as it is very short. The author mentioned a term called “proprioception.” I had heard of it but didn’t understand how it was related to joint injuries. Proprioception is the body’s ability to sense where it is in space, basically physically feeling, not emotionally or intellectually feeling. The author of the book drew the connection to not feeling enough to compensate with surrounding muscles; thus one is overusing one part of the joint. One of the proprioceptive exercises I used is standing on one leg for a few minutes throughout the day. That sent me right back to Tai Chi as always. This was a huge breakthrough for me because I understood at once how those exercises were going to heal me. When you are wobbling on one leg it is a sign your joint is destabilized. First it needs to learn how to stabilize itself and then build stronger muscles to strengthen the joint. Secondly you are going to be more in tune with your joint through developing awareness, thus adding to the stabilization of your injured joint.

I progressed with those exercises to a book called “Strength Ball Training,” which has proprioceptive exercises for competitive athletes. There were exercises like standing on one leg and tossing a medicine ball from the right to left hand, as well as others in this genre. After practicing these, my knee began experiencing less and less pain during classes. I kept this routine for 3 months, about 3 days per week. I also stretched 4-5 days per week, doing daily Qi gong self massage and icing my knee every night. All these brought my pain down from an 8 on a scale of 1-10 to a 1-3 depending on how much I used my knee.

The supplementation I use is milled flax seeds with omega 3 fatty acids and Curcumin. Flax seeds lubricate the joint and Curcumin reduces inflammation. It is a great combination.

In this day and age where people are looking for that one pill fix, my pain management solution is a good deal of work. But in doing it I got a few surprises. One, healing yourself is an incredible boost to your self worth. I learn to look at every injury or sickness as a puzzle to be solved and enjoy the whole process of exploration. Most importantly I have a deeper understanding of my body, which is a valuable skill in itself because you never truly heal, you always negotiate. Negotiating involves listening to your body so you don’t make the same mistakes again. Lastly, to master Tai Chi one needs to link up and stabilize the joints. Be sure energy transfers without wobbling. This injury has been a lesson I have learned deeply. Tai Chi philosophy clearly states one should never jolt the body too hard. My injury proves that pearl of ancient wisdom.


  1. Chris,

    You can copy this over to post if you'd like. I LOVED reading about your
    story and it gives such hope and inspiration to others. I'm exhausted and
    jet lagged from Hawai'i, yet reading your testimony immediately made me want
    to stand up and balance on one leg! As I said before, no doubt, it's
    personalities like yours who can take an injury and learn from it and share
    your learned wisdom with others. You take what seems like a curse and turn
    it into your blessing and gift to others! That is a compliment to you from

    Do keep me posted as always.

    Also I'm forwarding this on to my fellow back-knee sufferer friend to see
    what he says...


  2. Such a great story. I love stuff like this. Thanks for sharing! :-)