The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps
Powering Chimney Sweeping into the 21st Century

Look after those knees!

01 June, 2017

    I have now been involved in the Chimney industry for some thirteen years, a family business established in 1982 run by my father in law up until 7 years ago when he retired. Fortunately I was in a good position to take over the reins and bring forward the business to what it is today.

    The issue at heart I would like to make all sweeps aware of is your “KNEES”. Like many I have been on my knees for some time now and taken considerable care over the years, always worn heavy duty, comfortable knee pads and tried to rest them as much as possible, especially during the busier period.

    A couple of years ago, 2008 to be exact, I noticed that my knees ached for slightly longer than normal, but hey what do you expect kneeling most of the day… My dear wife as sympathetic as ever kindly reminded me “I wasn’t getting any younger” I was 39 at the time.

    In December 2008 the pain started to become unbearable; long into the night even with pain killers the aches continued. At this point there was no swelling, bruising or anything to show that something was wrong.  Once again I just put it down to the amount of work on my knees and continued to work and live with it. This proved to be a big mistake!

    In January 2009, while working on a chimney, I twisted round slightly to pick up another rod and felt and heard an almighty crack in my right knee.  I knew it wasn’t good and headed straight home after I had finished the chimney.

    That evening my knee was the size of a football, but funnily enough the pain wasn’t so bad, yes it ached but it was considerably more comfortable. Every night after work the ice pack was in full use, fortunately the chimneys had slowed down a little enabling me to get to the docs and see what was happening.

    The Doctor said I had Pre-Patella Bursitis or better known as house maid’s knee, this is a fluid behind the knee cap which thickens and becomes painful after years of kneeling, but on the safe side she sent me to see a knee consultant. Amazingly after three weeks the swelling had all but gone, but the knee was still causing problems, the consultant checked and said things didn’t quite feel right and I should have an MRI.

    The MRI scan appointment came through four weeks later. I then waited another three weeks to see the consultant, finally the results and “ Yes Mr Potter you have two tears, one to the cruciate ligament and one to the medial ligament, the only way to repair this is by surgery”.  The surgery is by means of an arthroscopy, this is key hole surgery.  “When will I be able to work?” was my first question, “Three weeks later” I was told.


    After seeing the surgeon, the surgery was booked for June 4th, at last I thought I can get this sorted and back to normal. When the surgeon had finished the operation and came to see me in recovery the true extent of the damage was revealed. Yes, the cruciate ligament was torn, and so was the medial, so much so they had to remove it fully. Additional to this there were particles of bone floating around the knee causing the main aching, this had to be removed and the worn bone re-shaped.

    The first week at home was unbelievable horrendous, I have never in all my time experienced pain like it, not only that but the final blow came that I wouldn’t be able to work for 8 weeks. Thank goodness business had been kind and could look after us.

    What was truly incredible is that my customers who phoned or reminders we called for their booking in the summer months all waited until I was good enough to return, that speaks volumes about my business and I’m very grateful.

    Nearly 12 weeks later and plenty of physiotherapy, I could return to work, thankfully the knee is good but will never be quite the same again. I need a check up every 6 months to monitor the progress which will eventually lead to a full knee replacement in approx 10 – 15 years time!!

    The knee specialist made it very clear that the majority of work needed could have been avoided if only I had seen the doctor sooner.

    The constant kneeling, moving around and twisting led to this problem. If you have knees that ache regularly a simple check with the doctors can prevent further trouble.

    After 12 weeks at home, I knew daytime telly like the back of my hand with plenty of tea and biscuits.

    Still, I’m so glad to be back doing what I enjoy.

    Look after those knees members!

    Nigel Potter

    Clean Sweep


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      Richard Lawson

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      Richard Lawson (Hexham Chimney Sweeps)
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