I’m off the mat for a while, hopefully just a couple of weeks, while I rest an injury to my right knee. I’m no stranger to knee injuries, and in fact had this particular one in my left knee 5–6 years ago; that one eventually required surgical intervention, and I’m hoping that I’ve caught this one early enough to prevent the need for such drastic measures. Even so, having to take time off to heal is not exactly fun.

The condition in question is prepatellar bursitis, which is a small fluid sac (bursa) in the knee becoming inflamed and over-filled with synovial fluid. In my case, the simple treatment of rest and ice hasn’t had any effect — it didn’t last time, either. The second resort is draining the excess fluid with a needle and injecting an anti-inflammatory/steroid mixture in its place, which I had done last week; now comes the rest phase, in which I have to give the treatment time to take effect, the injured tissues time to heal, and generally let things calm down. If I don’t, then the condition can become chronic, as happened in my left knee, necessitating removal of the bursa. My heartfelt advice to any readers who might happen to get bursitis, which is usually not in and of itself that painful at first, is to see an orthopaedic specialist as soon as possible. Do not settle for a primary care physician, and get a referral quickly. Perhaps you’ll be lucky and be cured by rest and ice alone, but if that doesn’t work then you’re only going to succeed in giving the condition time to become chronic.

Injuries, basically, suck. They get in the way of the fun things in life, and often hurt. Sadly, they’re also inevitable in one form or another. I think that you’d have better odds of winning the lottery than going through life without a single medical complaint, be it injury or illness. The correct question is not how to totally avoid injury, but how to minimise the unnecessary injuries while maintaining a reasonable quality of life. One Aikido teacher I know, Jack Arnold Sensei of Aikido Daiwa, has been known to say, “Once you start to study the martial arts, you’re going to get to know pain every day of your life.” It may sound grim, but it’s got a grain of truth in it: actually, I’d say that pain is inevitable in all walks of life and that martial arts simply give you something of a crash course in dealing with it.

So, while it’s frustrating to be away from the practice that I love for 2–3 weeks, and getting back into shape afterwards will be decidedly not fun, it still beats the alternatives of surgery or an outright incurable condition. I can also try to make the best of this time for rest and healing of all my various aches and niggles, not just the prime injury, and to reflect on my practice a bit. Also, some lessons for the future are fairly obvious: some people have weak arms, or a weak back, but clearly my knees are my weak point, and so I should probably consider using knee pads preemptively in future even if my knees feel strong, as they have been doing.


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