A Swiftly Tilting Tibia

December 3, 2012 | My Jottings

If you are a Madeleine L’Engle fan, you know the word play I’m attempting with the title of this post. If you aren’t familiar with her books, you can click here to see where my brain immediately went when I was trying to think up a title for this post about my tibia.

I’ve known for quite a while that the surgical trimming of my right knee’s meniscus (the C-shaped cushion in the joint) about seven years ago was leading to a bit of arthritis. The orthopedic surgeon warned me about it, but my choices at the time were limited:  1) have the surgery so I could resume walking, or 2) leave the impinged, torn meniscus in there and begin life in a wheelchair, or at the very least, life on crutches.

Gradually my right knee has become stiff and swollen, and in the last year it has become so achy that it wakes me up at night. It used to just hurt after a long day of walking and working; now it hurts all the time, even if I’m sitting or lying down. Going up and down stairs is a slow process. I limp a lot now.

I also noticed a few months ago that my right lower leg had started to tilt outward slightly, away from the knee joint. When I’m lying in bed or on the floor and lift both my legs up straight over me, knees together, the left leg is very straight, and the right lower leg tilts out in a deformed manner, so the ankles don’t meet anymore. Bleh.

So I decided recently to make a doctor’s appointment to see what was going on in there. I knew the x-ray would reveal some arthritic changes, but I had no idea that it would reveal a bone-on-bone situation that my doctor calls “severe,” and would call for eventual knee replacement surgery. Gah. I’m 55, so am too young for a total knee replacement. Apparently it’s not a good idea to do a “total knee” on a person my age, because the fake joint usually lasts only 10-15 years, and a second replacement doesn’t always have good results. So putting off a knee replacement until you’re in your sixties or seventies is what’s often recommended.

This is an x-ray of my right knee. You can see that I have plenty of space between my femur (thigh-bone) and tibia (largest calf-bone) on the inside of my leg, but on the outside of my leg, the bones are in there grinding away. That’s exactly where my nice little meniscus was shaved away. And that’s why my lower leg has begun to deform.

Alas, I have a Swiftly Tilting Tibia.

I will begin physical therapy next week, in hopes that strengthening my leg muscles will help. I can tell that my quadriceps are weak in the right leg because I’ve babied that side due to the pain.

I also recently learned that wonderful things are being done with hemi-arthroplasty, which is a partial knee replacement. It’s supposed to be a much easier surgery and might be a good choice for a person my age. Here’s a drawing of what a partial knee replacement looks like compared to a total knee.

Anyway, if you tuned in here today for something deep to ponder, or for a chuckleworthy anecdote about a grandchild, you’re obviously coming up shorthanded. I’m sorry about that, I really am.

Whether or not surgery will be in my immediate future is still uncertain. Heck, I’m still recovering from my wart-ectomy!

One thing at a time, one thing at a time….


  1. Kay in UK says:

    Oh dear, Julie, I’m sorry to hear that you’re suffering like this. Joint pain creeps up on us unawares and then we have to come face to face with the fact that we own an aging body. However, inside we feel like we’re still in our twenties/thirties and want to be able to do everything that we could back then – frustrating, isn’t it? 😉
    But we are blessed that our doctors and consultants are so clever nowadays and we don’t have to suffer the pain and indignities that our grandmothers had to bear. I remember my grandmother being in agony with arthritis and hip pain. (I probably inherited my wonky hips from her, and I’ve passed this defect onto Louisa.)
    I hope the physiotherapy proves to be effective. I’ve been given exercises to do to help with my back, but I admit I’ve been lazy about doing them.
    Love to you and Michael

  2. Helen in Switzerland says:

    Oh nook Julie, that sounds terrible – I hope the physio can help, or that your doctor can come up with a suitable alternative that gets rid of the pain. Thinking of you, H xx

  3. Dorothy Sooter says:

    I am so sorry you are having to go through this. My ankle that I broke nine years ago is giving me problems with arthritis and at 78 it is
    not to uncommon. I started taking a product that my son Jim swears by
    and am getting relief. I was also having a problem with my shoulder and
    it is much better. Will send you some if you want to give it a try. It is
    called replenex and it is a Melealuca product.

  4. Ember says:

    Hi honey – I’ve recently read of knee re-alignment achieved by orthotic trainer shoes as a possible alternative to surgery. I can’t find the ad I saw now, but I’ll email you if I find it. The sort of thing I’m talking about is discussed here:



  5. Roberta says:

    Julie, Just want you to know whatever happens in your life, the wonderful, the exciting, or the difficult and painful, I, and so many others I am sure,
    want to hear from you to share what LIFE brings, and wish you every good.
    I am praying that PT will bring relief. In the past, it has done remarkable things for me.

  6. Just Julie says:

    Dearest Kay, Helen, Dorothy, Ember and Roberta, Thank you all so much for your caring, helpful comments about my knee! I’m making a spaghetti dinner and getting ready for a granddaughter’s birthday party here tonight, but will check out every product and link you all mentioned. God bless you all, dear friends…. xxoo

  7. Ganeida says:

    Tuning in late. How I hate my body getting old! It requires too much maintainance when all it is is the handbag for my brain. lol May explain why my brains seem to be falling out these days. I have neither sage advice nor helpfull commentary but love & prayers your way. <3

  8. Just Julie says:

    How true, Ganeida! I think my brains are falling out too. 🙂 And I’m so thankful for your love and prayers — gratefully received! xxoo

  9. Elise Daly Parker says:

    Oh I’m sorry Julie! With your great attitude and some physical therapy, I pray you’ll be feeling much much better. Blessings!

  10. Just Julie says:

    Thank you for stopping by Elise, and for your good wishes! I hope your Christmas is peaceful and blessed… xxoo

  11. Shari C. says:

    So sorry, Julie! Knee pain is a pain!!
    I’ll pray that God will guide you to the best possible healing

  12. Just Julie says:

    Shari, this is exactly what I’m praying – thank you for praying for me like this! xxoo

  13. Tauni says:

    I too am sad you are experiencing this painful realization that even though God designed our bodies to carry us through our lives, he also designed them to prepare us also for the joy we will feel at getting new heavenly bodies!!! I personally would not feel the full benefit of what that would mean if I did not feel the slow decline of my earthly body 🙂 ! That being said, I am so grateful for your having written this just so I could expand my vocabulary and interesting use of some phrases your guests (out of our country) have posted. I will need to look for ways to use the terms, “handbag for my brain,” “wonky hips,” and “oh nook . . . ” Thank you Kay, Helen and Ganeida! Oh, and Jules ~ as always you make me smile!! Love you~

  14. Just Julie says:

    Such wise words, Tauni. Thank you for the reminder. And yes, aren’t my online friends fun and instructive and loving and amazing? I’d like them all to meet you, and you them. xxoo

  15. Carrie says:

    Praying for wisdom and direction in dealing with the pain. My husband has lived with chronic joint pain since childhood. I know it can make life miserable.

  16. Just Julie says:

    I am sorry to know about your husband’s pain, Carrie. 🙁 Thank you so much for your prayers…God bless your weekend. xxoo

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