Sunday, September 2, 2012

My Rude Introduction to Arthritis

Let me begin by stating upfront that I realize that a great many people suffer from much more serious arthritic conditions than I. This article is not to trivialize their conditions in any way. My intent is to explain how this disease manifested itself in me and the treatment that I have undertaken.
Being an avid golfer, I like many other men can hardly wait for spring to arrive. In 2004 spring came early. My first round I walked 18 holes with a push cart as I usually do. I did not feel any abnormal pain at this point. The next day I went to the driving range to work some of the kinks out of my swing, and hit a large bucket of balls. Later that evening my left knee was in so much pain that I could not stand with any pressure on it, walking was very painful. This persisted for 2-3 weeks, it did finally start to get better, but only marginally, golf had been degraded to using a power cart, there was just no way I could walk 9 holes, let alone 18. Making any full swing was painful from the pressure put on my left knee.
I finally went to an Orthopedist, and after x-rays of both knees and a range of motion exam, was told that I had Osteoarthritis. The doctor showed me the small space left between the bones of my left knee, and told me that the meniscus (a pad of cartilage that cushions the joint and prevents bone to bone contact) was thinning and was in all likelihood torn. He told me that a few years ago, the standard treatment was to surgically repair the meniscus . however this type of repair was only effective at relieving pain about 50% of the time.
The more accepted treatment now, was to prescribe a series of exercises designed to strengthen the muscles around the knee joint, and a pain reliever to control the pain, so that I could exercise. He also suggested that I investigate and take glucosamine which is a natural healing product not regulated by the FDA. He stated that recent large scale studies had shown that glucosamine was effective in slowing down the loss of cartilage and may even contribute to regeneration of damaged cartilage.
Because I had previously had problems using Ibuprofen, he prescribed "Bextra" (a cox 2 inhibitor drug) that seemed very effective. Of course 2 weeks later came the scare about "Vioxx" also a cox 2 inhibitor drug, and I stopped taking "Bextra", which is now not prescribed by many doctors. I started taking Ibuprofen again, however only in great moderation, I have had no ill effects. I continued with the exercises, some gradual improvement was noticed. I also continued taking glucosamine.
All of these measures have contributed to effective pain relief, however even more relief was noticed after losing about 10 lbs. This reinforces the notion that excess weight plays a large role in knee pain.
As of now (going into spring of 2005) the pain seems to be under control, my activity with the possible exception of running, is not restricted in any way. And my golf swing, once again needs work!
Resources for more information:
Arthritis and Glucosamine Information Center
Flexicose Homepage
Arthritis Foundation
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center Arthritis National Research Foundation
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Arthritis Insight