Using Social Media to Make Medical Decisions

knee picture

It started innocently enough with a post on Facebook:

Well, the MRI shows a torn ACL and stretched/inflamed MCL. I've decided against surgery and going down the physical therapy route. Which means I'll finally have a skinny knee.

I had just returned from the doctor's office where we had an intense discussion about the treatment protocol for my torn ACL.  The original tear happened a year ago, when I caught a heel during a tumble turn while barefoot water skiing. The pain was pretty intense and it took a while for the swelling to go down. I was on crutches for several days, but it seemed to heal quickly, so I didn't give it much thought. I canceled the MRI because the knee felt great. I was back on the water again a few weeks later.

There were a few twinges here and there throughout the year and I began to notice a pattern-- the knee would give out when I attempted to barefoot backward on my feet.  In August, the knee gave out during one backward start, pitching me over backwards so hard I saw stars for nearly an hour afterward.  I tried again in September, this time with a brace on.  The knee gave out after the tenth start, screaming loud and hard. There would be no more barefooting for me that morning. I hobbled to the car afterwards.

I couldn't ignore the problem any longer, and with the nagging from a fellow barefooter, I finally scheduled an MRI, which revealed a tear. I went back and forth over the options.  Fix the ACL and be off the water for a year, said the doc.  Or do physical therapy to strengthen the other ligaments and ski with a brace.

I had just gotten off a week of skiing with an over-the-counter brace and the knee held up well.  So my rationale was to continue with that process.

But after posting the update on Facebook and Twitter, there was a lot to reconsider.  I heard back from all sides-- those who opted for surgery, those who didn't, and those who did both. There were a lot of messages that basically urged me to go for the surgery.  The feedback I received gave me a lot to think about and a lot more to work with than when I previously made the decision based on just me and the doc.  I began to realize that I wasn't so sure about my initial decision.  I now had a lot more information to work with and did more research on the internet.

So I sat there in the early morning, mulling it all over.  I didn't want to make a decision based on the "majority factor," which was overwhelmingly in favor of surgery.

Ok, God, I need a sign. 

Just an hour later, I walked down the stairs with a suitcase in hand-- and the knee gave out at the bottom of the stairs. I threw my head back and laughed.  That was definitely a sign.  But I still had yet to be 100% sure...

Several more emails piled into my box and more messages on Facebook and Twitter appeared.  One from another barefooter-- who bluntly told me I was acting like a crack addict trying to avoid surgery so I could keep on skiing instead of getting it fixed.  That one made me laugh too.  But the one that hit home came from Ted Klein, another barefooter:

 Karen, obviously everyone else has already given you their advice and I can say from my own experience I would agree with most of them. Twenty years ago I had a 50% tear of my acl and a torn mcl in the same injury. My Dr advised surgery and I chose the pt instead. I missed six months of skiing. My insurance paid for a $1500 custom fitted brace and I started skiing again with only going straight forwards. My apprehension to another injury was so great it took me another 6 months before I was doing anything except standing there. Anyhow looking back after three more knee injuries over the years and trying to overcome that fear of another injury I wish I would have had mine fixed the first time. Each time I would miss at least 6-8 weeks from footin. I still wear the brace, which really sucks. The injury still bothers me and has definitely hampered my progress.

You do what you feel is best for you. But if you have a 100% torn acl, it will not heal itself and my advice would be to get it fixed now and work your butt off on physical therapy. You have a great desire too barefoot, but make a wise decision, as you get older, you still need to walk to the dock to get in the boat. Lol

That was the one that cinched it for me-- because I realized I was skiing with fear and worried that the knee would give out.  All last week, I avoided skiing backwards on my feet for that reason.  There was no way I'd progress in the sport if I was constantly worried that the knee would not hold up.  I'm moving ahead with the surgical option.

So if you've dealt with a torn knee ligament-- I'd love to hear your feedback!


Leave a comment