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Pops and Buckles: What Happens to My Knee

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I was running down the Kestrel trail in the foothills near Boise last night and it happened: my knee popped. Then a minute later it did it again. Then three minutes later, it half buckled. Well, I can handle the occasional pop (even though I haven’t had one in weeks), but the half buckle is almost as scary as the full one.

Pops…. Buckles….. what’s this guy talking about? Pops and Buckles are the weird things my left knee does to get my attention and remind me that Dr Brian Larkin wants to replace it. AND, they are the things that make me think that this rude, invasive, knee replacement might have to happen.

First, Pops. I don’t know why I call them pops because nothing is actually popping. What happens, in my mind (a dangerous place) is that I over extend my knee and it causes a bone on bone shot up my leg. OUCH. They only last a second, but are pretty alarming. Generally, I can have an occasional pop and it’s not a big deal. Three or four over a short time span, however, makes my knee progressively sore.

Two things: first and foremost, the bone on bone thing is real. There’s not much attaching the bottom of my knee to my shin (the song “the shin bone connected to the knee bone” is, indeed, just a song). Second, as my Ortho Doc Andy Parker says, “Over extend? HA! You couldn’t over extend your knee if your life depended on it.” Too much arthritis, too much inflammation. Nonetheless, my over extension happens sometimes when going downhill, or when I try to lengthen my stride (go faster).

Buckles are different. Appropriately named, a buckle happens when my knee actually buckles. All support vanishes, the knee decides we’re going down, and makes its attempt at causing Rich to take a tumble. Luckily, I’m still coordinated enough, or intuitive enough, that I rarely go down (fall). Only fell twice in these last few years of this knee journey.

I suppose it could be said that this, like many pain and discomfort things, is in my mind. Part of the brain’s job is to receive sensation from the body. Maybe David Goggins could skip right through this. Maybe I could skip right through this. But I don’t. The Pops cause alarm and I always use them to alter pace and footstrike. The Buckles are just plain scary.

On the bright side, as I have lost weight, they don’t occur as much. Well, that makes perfect sense as the amount of impact for the knee to absorb is lessened by weight loss. So there is a part of me that thinks that with enough weight loss, this problem could be nearly eliminated. We’ll see.

Yesterday, when the Kestrel trail provided some pops and a half buckle, I think it went better than usual. I said OUCH (and a few other things unwritable), and then walked for about four or five minutes. Started up again and had no further issues (only had ten minutes to go).

All in all, it could be worse. At least I’m still out there.

Run on.