First, let it be known to all that I am not a doctor or even close to a qualified medical expert. What I am offering here are some tips for coping with knee pain from someone who has lived with a bone-on-bone arthritic condition in her left knee for the last four years.
Yes, I have put off the inevitable knee replacement surgery hoping for a miracle cure. Yes, I have now gotten to the point where the knee replacement has to occur sooner rather than later. But through delay, there have been medical advances that I will now be able to take advantage of. So if you are a procrastinator like me, here are some ideas on how to put off what my doctors have told me is inevitable.
I don’t know what I would have done without my steroid shots. You can get them every six weeks, and they have alleviated much of my knee pain. When the steroid shots became less effective, I turned to gel shots (Hyalgan gel is one). These are more expensive and may not be covered by insurance. I didn’t find them that helpful (and they are more painful when administered), but others say they have worked well for them.
When the gel and the steroids were not working as well, I turned to a PRP shot. This is platelet-rich plasma that is made from your own blood and shot into your knee. Some have claimed it is a miracle since it allows your body to heal itself. But, again, it is experimental and did not work for me. Plus, in order to get the shot, you have to give up all of your anti-inflammatory medications (Aleve, Advil) for six weeks. That only made things worse.
Some are even moving to the stem cell treatments that are now being offered – also on an experimental basis. Very expensive, and I am not sure the results have yet been proven.
Having lived on daily doses of Advil and Aleve, I can testify that these can really help. They do eliminate a large portion of the knee pain. Tylenol just does not work as well. But, as with any drug, they become less effective the more you take them. Plus, they tend to cause stomach problems. So beware.
Also, many vitamins do help. Don’t forget your Glucosamine and your Fish Oil. Both of these will help solve some of the issues. Others also swear by a daily dose of red tart cherry juice (hard to swallow), spicy foods (add turmeric, cumin, ginger, and red pepper to your diet), and at least three cups of green tea a day. See what might work for you.
Although I haven’t fulfilled this goal, one of the best things you can do is lose weight. But, in an attempt to do something on the physical side, I have been working with a physical therapist on exercises for my knee pain. The stretches and the strengthening of surrounding muscles really ease some of the pain.
But remember to make sure you are exercising in a way that doesn’t cause more damage. Certain exercises, like swimming and biking, are great. If you’re considering taking up running or mountain climbing, you might want to think again. You also need to make sure your shoes are providing the proper support because this can make a huge difference in how your knees feel on a daily basis. I haven’t worn heels for a number of years and this helps too. And, even if you also don’t wear heels and spend your days in a pair of flats, you still need to make sure they have an adequate amount of arch support. Simple changes like these can truly affect the amount of knee pain you experience.
One of the best things I have found is grabbing that bag of frozen vegetables from the freezer and using it to reduce inflammation every evening while watching TV. I can’t tell you how this helps because it not only relieves the pain but it also lessens any swelling that’s developed as the night progresses. My knees feel much better the next morning also because of the extra bit of care I provided.
When it gets too painful to walk a few blocks or even climb a flight of stairs, it could be time to have that knee replacement surgery. It may help to know that there are more than 600,000 knee replacements performed every year and if you do the physical therapy, you could free yourself from any pain going forward.
So after four years of dealing with the issue, I have scheduled the surgery. I will let you know how that goes. And in the meantime, stay off the internet or ignore all the horror stories you hear. It is the doctor-recommended solution to chronic knee pain.
Our 5-Minute Barre series on YouTube can help you build strength in your knees. Watch below and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more fitness videos.