Do your kneecaps move?

About six weeks ago, I knelt down on our living room carpet to pick up dog toys. When I put down my left knee, I cried out, “Ouch!” I pushed over off my knees to look at what I knelt on, but there was nothing there. Nothing hiding in or under the carpeting. I pushed on my knee to find the sore spot, but couldn’t find it. Sure enough, as soon as I knelt again and put pressure on my knee, I felt like a knife was jabbing into my knee. It almost feels as though there’s something stuck between my kneecap and my leg bone and when I kneel down, it hurts!

Last week I resigned myself to the fact that something is definitely wrong with my knee and it’s not getting any better. So I went to my regular doctor and he asked, “Why do you need to use your knees?” I’m not kidding. He really asked me that and he waited for an answer. I decided he was looking for that “quality of life” statement, so I told him I cannot clean bathrooms, I cannot get heavy pans out of the bottom shelf in the cupboard, I cannot dig shoes out from the floor of my closet. That satisfied him and he made a bunch of notes. And then he asked me in all sincerity, “Are you Catholic?” The question was so out of context that I had to think for a moment about why in the world he wanted to know that.

He went on to examine my knee and ask more questions. No matter what he did, he could not make it hurt. He sent me to x-ray, but the films came back normal. “I’m sorry to have to do this, but I’m going to refer you to a sports doctor. I can’t find anything wrong and he’ll have a better idea.” He truly felt bad that he couldn’t diagnose the problem, and that might have been why he decided to say, “Remember the joke, if it hurts don’t do it?” I smiled to make him feel better even though I didn’t find it funny.

So yesterday I went to see the sports doctor. I explained the pain I’m having and he said, “Stop using your knees.” He wasn’t teasing. Since I’m not an athlete and I don’t need to use my knees for my job, he told me to stop using my knees for two to three months. If it’s not better, then I should come back and we can discuss options, like a cortisone shot. “Who’s going to clean the bathrooms and wash floors?” I asked the doc. “Your husband can do those things.” I’m still laughing. And my knee still hurts.

Both of these doctors (both male, is that a coincidence or not?) couldn’t understand why I am on my knees so much. I told them each, “You don’t realize how often you use your knees until you can’t.” I also explained that through this process I’ve learned I have a favorite knee. Just like I write with one hand and use the same foot to kick with, I have one knee that always goes down first. Of course, it’s that knee that hurts.

I pressed the sports doctor for an explanation as to what could be causing this pain. “You probably fell and don’t remember it.” I haven’t fallen. If I did anything, I might have banged it on the desk drawer at work. “Maybe you were in an accident.” Maybe he’s making this up as he goes?

In 1980 when I was in college, I went dancing with some friends. The club had a staircase that spiraled down to the dance floor, and sure enough I tripped and fell to my knees and slid down the last four steps out onto the dance floor. The whole place erupted in applause and cheers. Everyone thought it was the coolest dance move ever! My date had to pull me up because I couldn’t stand up on my own. I had twisted my ankle, but my knees were just fine. That was more than thirty years ago and alcohol played a role that night. But I remember that incident very clearly. I think if I had been in an accident or fell and hurt my knee, I would remember that too.

Anyway, I wanted some kind of explanation as to what could be going on with my knee. The sports doctor told me some story about how I probably scraped the inside of my kneecap and now there’s a scar, similar to a bruise and it’s going to take a while to heal. Or, he offered another possibility, the cartilage could be wearing with age and it’s worn weird in one spot and it’s creating a sore spot. I must have had a bewildered and confused look on my face because the sports doctor took that moment to tell me, “This reminds me of the old joke, the man tells the doctor my arm hurts when I do this, and the doctor says don’t that.”

I didn’t laugh. “Let me see if I’m hearing you correctly,” I said. I repeated back to him this strange story about possibly scraping the backside of my kneecap or that the cartilage is wearing away in a weird way. He nodded his head and said, “The only way to know for sure is to open it up. But I’m not going to do that. I’ve opened plenty of knees to know this is most likely what you’re dealing with.” He went on to tell me that everyone’s kneecaps can move from side to side but that I have “firm kneecaps” because they don’t move. Honest to God! I did everything I could to stop from laughing out loud. I guess I should have been flattered at that point to know that at least I have one “firm” body part at my age. Since he couldn’t make the pain happen during the exam, he declared this not a very serious thing at all. “Stay off your knees for two months or so and it should go away.”

When I came home and told my husband he has to clean bathrooms until my knee feels better, he told me to get a second opinion. I’m going to a different doctor next week.

Oh, and by the way, my husband’s kneecaps don’t move side to side. Neither do any of my daughters’ or their husbands/boyfriends. Do yours move?


5 thoughts on “Do your kneecaps move?

  1. Yes, both my kneecaps move side to side (when my leg is straight and relaxed) and they are supposed to. And I would definitely get a second opinion. And stay off your knees!

    But I also know how little it can take to hurt ourselves. This summer, I took a big step onto my lawn and broke a little bone in my foot and tore a tendon that was attached to the bone. I had aggravated it a year prior, but it was nothing worse than when I was a kid and would twist my ankle. A wrenching on my foot here, a little twisting of it there, and a year later whammo- one step and it broke.

  2. Funny, just before I read your post I was moaning to my husband because my foot, which yesterday was very swollen, stiff, and so painful I couldn’t walk, is about 75% better this morning – AFTER I saw the doctor and had an x-ray yesterday and found that it’s not broken and all I could do for it was rest.
    -Amy at

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