My grandmother lived for 92 years, and her life was active, full and happy -except for the final 20 years of her life, which were plagued with debilitating knee pain. The care that my grandmother received for her knee osteoarthritis at first included only painkillers. When the pain got worse, she was given a cane. Finally, as the pain disabled her, she used a wheelchair for mobility and was told her heart condition made it impossible to consider knee replacement surgery.
I cannot help thinking that if my grandmother's arthritis had been better treated, then she would have remained more active, her heart condition would not have worsened as it did, and she would have had many more pain-free, active, happy days with us. At the time, however, my grandmother's care was not atypical. Doctors were not as informed about how to treat knee osteoarthritis as we are now, and many of the treatments had simply not yet been developed. In 2008, when we have so many effective treatments for knee osteoarthritis, painkillers, canes and wheelchairs cannot be the standard of care.
Osteoarthritis Treatments Are More Effective Today
Today, we know that through exercise, a healthy anti-inflammatory diet, and certain supplements, most people can stay active and pain-free. By stretching and strengthening the muscles around the painful joints, we are able to unload the joints, allowing the inflammation to abate and dramatically decrease the pain. By keeping the muscles strong and limber, the pain does not return for many people. The anti-inflammatory diet helps reduce the overall level of inflammation in the body, which, in addition to decreasing risk of heart disease and cancer, also leads to an overall feeling of wellness and decreased joint pain.
When pain from osteoarthritis makes it too difficult to exercise (and you should never exercise through joint pain), doctors have many tools to help reduce the inflammation. Topical medications, oral medications, and various injection procedures all serve to offer a window of opportunity during which the patient is strongly encouraged to take an active role to stretch and strengthen the surrounding muscles.
The Arthritis Handbook
I wrote The Arthritis Handbook: Improve Your Health and Manage the Pain of Osteoarthritis because I strongly believe that education is the first key to liberating yourself from pain, and for staying pain-free long into the future. If you understand why you hurt then you can begin to take active steps toward reducing your pain. In the book, I explain what osteoarthritis is, how it develops, and how to quickly and effectively treat it. I emphasize things that the reader can do on his or her own, safely, to reduce the pain. Exercise, nutrition, and supplements are all discussed in great detail. I offer a comprehensive exercise program with detailed pictures of each of the exercises geared to the different joints. I also describe what to expect from your doctor, including what different treatments are available. I think it is important for the reader to understand the entire spectrum of care, from exercise, nutrition, and supplements-to medications, injections, and, when necessary, surgical interventions.