My Joint Pain Journey: Finding a Silver Lining in a Setback

As you may remember, I had the Regenexx stem cell therapy in late July. Since then, it has been a very interesting few weeks.

The first week was tough; I experienced a lot of pain and was fairly immobile. I followed instructions to the letter including wearing the brace that had been prescribed whenever I was mobile. I was also told not to be in a hurry and to just take it easy. Remember, I am 68; not 30!

I went back to my yoga studio two days after the procedure – sitting with knee propped, using my brace, and teaching without actually participating and then spent the rest of the time at home resting.

Things started progressing and within a couple of weeks I was walking about a mile – slowly. Still no steps and pretty much off the pain meds.

Then I had a setback. On Wednesday, August 5, I started experiencing increased pain in the knee; on the medial side. This is opposite the stem cell injection site just for reference. By Saturday, I was unable to walk and sent a message to Dr. Kruse that the pain was about 9.5 on a scale of 1-10 and that besides being unable to walk, I was terrified.

Within a short time, Dr. Kruse called me back and, with a few simple questions determined what MIGHT be happening and said to get in to the office first thing Monday morning.

We drove up to Toledo (a bit over two hours) and was brought in to the office in a wheel chair. Within minutes, the regenerative medicine team had checked the knee, including an ultrasound, and determined that the stem cells were just fine. The knee was very swollen and Dr. Kruse decided to remove the fluid that had built up to the tune of 55cc!

Once the fluid had been removed, I was able to get up and hobble around a bit unaided for the first time in almost a week.

I decided that if I was up and about, I should probably be using the brace. And that is when we discovered that the brace was creating most of, if not all the issues. Somehow it was pressing against the medial meniscus causing the knee to react by swelling. Touching the knee at one place created a 10+ pain response and we had our culprit.

I was sent home with instructions not to use the brace, and with pain meds, to see what happened over the next two weeks when I was to come in for my regular checkup.

Things began to steadily improve, but at the August 31 check-up, Dr. Kruse was not very happy with my range of motion or flexibility. He ordered more aquatic therapy and told me to keep working on moving the leg. My stem cells were just fine by the way.

I believe his main concern was that damage to the patella, which had happened long ago but had been masked by other issues within the knee and hadn’t caused any problems, was now rearing its ugly head and that something might needed to be done about it; perhaps even surgically.

So, I am writing one week later on Tuesday, September 8, to offer what I believe to be a most positive report.

I am able to go up and down steps normally. Today, I am able to not only turn the crank on my bike but to spin at a reasonably high rpm. While I am still experiencing stiffness, I have minimal pain and feel that everything is moving in a positive direction daily.

My goals are still the same: To sit cross-legged and to be able to achieve child’s pose in my yoga classes and to run a 5K by the end of the year.

Some Thoughts on the Ups and Downs

I was discouraged when things began to go haywire three weeks after the procedure. I had thoughts like, It was all a mistake. And, I was going to be one of those people the procedure wasn’t going to help.

As things have begun to improve, I’m still not 100% certain what I might expect as an outcome. I’m now 6 weeks in – though I do feel as if I lost well over a week with the brace debacle – and I am still experiencing issues with flexibility, range of motion, and some pain.

That said, Bonnie, who is the team coordinator for the regenerative medicine group at Dr. Kruse’s office, reminded me that it takes up to three or four months to get back full range of motion.

This week, I’ve made some great improvements including being able to get on my indoor training bike and spin at a relatively high rate without any pain.

I’m not taking a “wait and see” approach; rather, I’m proactively working hard at regaining more range of motion and strength. I’m pushing myself more in yoga, walking steps instead of using elevators whenever possible, and am getting ready to try a bit of jogging.

This evening, I’m hoping to get back home in time to get on the back of our tandem and ride around the neighborhood for a mile or so.

I’m also aware that I may not get all that I had hoped for in the beginning and trying not to be disappointed if that is the case. My fear and discouragement that I had perhaps made a bad choice in having the Regenexx procedure has been replaced once again with renewed excitement and hope.

diane leesDiane Lees is a 41-year veteran of the bicycle industry, where she owned and operated a custom fit, design, and build bicycle shop for many years. She is the author of the HubBub Guide to Cycling, the producer and host ofThe Outspoken Cyclist radio show, and a registered yoga instructor. Diane calls the Cleveland, Ohio, area home.