Recently, we went to Lake Livingston for a family vacation. I’m not a “camper” so we rented a cabin on the water. The vacation was fabulous! We were able to pack the 2 kids and dog in the car for a morning hike at the state park before it got into the high 80s. My husband got to fish. My son caught his first lizard. Our dog chased every bug she saw and my daughter chased the dog. Fun was had by all.
I was so tired at the end of the first day I couldn’t wait to get into bed.
As I’m getting into bed I realize they only have 2 pillows which means I’m not going to get the second pillow between my knees. At first I was okay but about halfway through the night my hip and lower back started to ache like crazy. I had to keep flipping sides to stop the ache. Thankfully it was vacation so I was able to sleep in for a little bit.
One of the natural consequences of the quarantine is that everyone sits so much more now. Even if you are normally an active person. If you live and work in the same place naturally sit more.
I’ve personally felt more stiff at the end of the day from all my sitting. After about 2 weeks of working solely from home I realized how uncomfortable my kitchen chairs are….they are not meant to sit in for 8 hours….
About that time of the quarantine, I got a call from Katie who was having severe lower back pain. “Why can’t I sit? I can't even sit for 5 minutes on my couch or in my recliner. I can sit for maybe 30 minutes on a hard chair. Why? “ Katie asked. She went on to tell me she had an intense tightness across her lower back all the time but after sitting for too long she had extra pressure on one side of her hip. The pain was better in standing sometimes but then it hurt to put weight on one leg.
We went to Fredericksburg a few months back for our summer trip. It was a little different with the COVID restrictions, no more wine tasting. Booo! But the beautiful scenery is still there. My son loved walking around the state park and staying in the cabin. So the trip was still fun.
I was telling this story to a woman I met at one of my kids' events when she looked at me and said “I’d love to go to Fredericksburg but I can’t sit in the car that long.” This of course started a conversation about her back. She couldn’t remember when the pain started since it started as an intermittent mild ache after riding a stationary bike at the gym. Eventually, she changed her workout to walking on the treadmill but the pain didn’t go away, in fact it steadily got worse. She finally went to her primary care when her back wouldn’t stop hurting no matter what she was doing….sitting to watch tv, standing in line at the grocery store, even brushing her teeth was painful. I asked her what the final straw was that got her to see her primary care. She told me she was not able to care for her kids the way she wanted. She had to ask for help for everything...cooking, cleaning, and the idea of going to sporting events was miserable. She went to the doctor feeling like her body was falling apart and that she was failing as mother and wife.
I asked how she felt after the doctor appointment. She said, nothing really changed except they ordered an MRI. That’s when the news got really bad.
About 15 years ago, I downloaded my first running program. Until that point my workouts were sporadic and uninspired. I’d certainly never been able to run longer than 30 second without feeling like I was going to die. Over the next 8 weeks I followed that running program to the letter and just as the program promised I was able to run 5K without stopping. I was so excited and proud that I was finally able to run without stopping for a full 5K. Truth be told it took several weeks after the program ended before I stopped feeling nauseated at the end of my run. But I was still completely over the moon that I was now a runner!
Even more exciting to me was that throughout the whole training program I’d only felt normal soreness in my legs and feet after my runs, nothing that was scary or overwhelming. I continued running and found groups that run throughout different parts of the city on weekends. I lost weight, I was more calm throughout the day. Basically running was the key part of my selfcare to deal with all the things life threw at me.
When I decided to increase my running distance from 5K to 10K, that is when my body started to fall apart.
My kids love being outside. My daughter will hand you her shoes with a very determined look to let you know you are going for a walk. She’s 1.5 y/o and can make it about a quarter of a mile before asking to be carried. And because my son “is a big boy now” he practically runs the whole quarter mile loop just to make sure he beats his sister. Pre- pandemic we would never see anyone out and about in the neighborhood. Since the quarantine we see neighbors out all through the day and evening. It's wonderful! You get to at least see if not meet your neighbors.
During one of our walks I saw a woman walking briskly ahead of us on the sidewalk. Then all of a sudden she stopped and rubbed her right knee. Then after a few more steps she stopped again, stood on her left leg bending and straightening her right leg while on her knee. She was obviously trying to figure why something was hurting just below her kneecap was hurting.
Who wants to walk if all you're going to hear is a pop or a click coming from your knees? I know I don’t. It makes me feel like I’m getting old.
Walking is supposed to help relax you, calm your mind and be good for your body, not make you go down an anxiety driving rabbit hole. How are you supposed to relax when every step you take there is a pop making you question if you are breaking something or causing arthritis.
Walking is great for your body and your mind when you're not worried about your knees the whole time. So I wanted to explain a little bit about what is causing the pop, how to decide if the pop means anything, and how to stop your knee from popping.
I remember the first workout video I ever tried. It was Denise Austin Buns Of Steel on VHS. I wanted to lose weight and I didn't know where to start. After watching one of Denise Austin’s infomercials I was sure I could look amazing if I just did her videos.
I remember being so excited when I finally got the video in the mail. I popped the VHS in my player. The first few exercises were easy, until it was time to squat. She suggests using a chair so you could pretend to sit down then stand up just before sitting.
I distinctly remember being so confused and overwhelmed on how to follow all her directions on how to do the squat correctly.
How can I sit back and not have knees pass my toe? How far back should I sit back in the chair?
How do I not sit all the way down?
I felt so awkward and my mind was racing the whole time and oh how they hurt my knees.
Thankfully the squats were only one exercise… but then there were lunges...so by the end of this workout my knees and ego were very hurt. After a few tries that video sat on the shelf until VHS went out of style. I was just too confused and anxious about how to squat without pain.
It was years before I could squat without pain.
After hearing all that you might be wondering;
Why should you even try to stop knee pain while squatting? If it hurts don’t do it right?
Are you a 40 + year old who has just started a running or walking program that is now getting “random” leg pains? Or perhaps you are trying to increase your miles or your speed and now you have pain on the outside of your knee that travels all the way from your knee to your ankle.
How frustrating! All you’re trying to do is improve your health and you’ve hurt yourself.
Are you now wondering if you’re made to run? Or are starting to get overwhelmed by the whole “getting healthy” progress?
You are not alone. Everyone feels overwhelmed or disappointed when they’ve set a workout or fitness goal that is suddenly stopped by what feels like a failing body.
It's easy to brush off waking up once or twice with a stiff neck as “I just slept wrong”. But if you consistently wake up with a stiff neck for days, weeks or months frustration and anxiety take over. You start to question everything in your life. Do I have the right pillow? Is my computer set up right for me? Do I need monthly massages? Do I need weekly neck adjustments? Is there a way to permanently stop this neck stiffness to get back to sleeping, working and playing?
You start with looking at your pillow...it's old or maybe it was cheap so you decide to look at replacing it with the hopes it will get you a nice relaxing night of sleep. Then you stay up late researching all the different pillow types... thick pillows, thin pillows, a curved pillow, memory foam or one that looks like a donut? Now you are overwhelmed by the number of choices you have to make to replace your old pillow. How is anyone supposed to make a good decision?
Hi Dr. Molly
I have a question about my shoulder. I lift weights a few times a week. Recently, I haven’t been able to lift my right shoulder as high as my left shoulder. I wouldn’t say it hurts but it doesn’t feel normal. Google tells me I have a shoulder impingement. Will this heal on its own? I don't remember doing anything to hurt my shoulder, I just don’t want it to get worse.
WE HELP ACTIVE ADULTS OVERCOME THEIR ACHES AND PAINS TO GET THEM BACK TO THEIR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES WITHOUT MEDICATION, INJECTIONS OR SURGERIES.
Dr. Molly McDonald