9 Tips for Managing Knee Pain
I was in a tennis tournament in my 40s, playing on a clay court. All of a sudden, my knee seemed to go in an entirely different direction from the rest of me. I figured it would be best to find out what was happening before things got any worse.
It was what I expected: a little arthritis here and some unhealthy cartilage there. I wasn’t surprised to hear the diagnosis—my mother had battled arthritis for quite a number of years. Nonetheless, it was a disappointment. I was discouraged, especially after exercising well and eating right, to still fulfill the prophecy that “your genetics will catch up with you.”
But I knew one thing for sure: I did not want to stop playing tennis. For that reason, I did whatever treatment was prescribed. I also did, through trial and error, whatever else was necessary to maintain and stabilize my knee.
Here’s my "tried and triumphed" maintenance regimen:
Glucosamine: I take a glucosamine supplement, without fail, every day. I’ve learned over the last 20 years that while it may not make me better, it will keep me from getting worse.
Medication: I take an anti-inflammatory prescription drug every other day. I decided to see how I could tolerate the pain without taking it daily and so far, that’s working well. If I need something extra, I take acetaminophen as a supplement.
Stretching: I try to do straight leg raises regularly. I use a bathrobe tie to pull my leg straight up and hold it there for 30 seconds. It stretches the back of my knee as well as my back. Ideally, I would do them every day, but I don’t always think about it. However, when I don’t do them regularly, my knee pain will promptly remind me.
Cycling: I cycle when I can. I have a recumbent bike, which I try to ride for 30 minutes at least three times a week. As one of my physical therapists once said to me: “motion is lotion.”
Topical Gels: I also use topical gels almost every day. This is mainly on my left knee because it’s caused me the most problems over the last 20 years.
Ice: I think it’s very important to ice your knee. When I was playing tennis regularly, I used to carry ice bags. When I got off the court, I would fill them and sit there for 20 minutes and ice. Again, if you don’t feel pain you forget to do it, but you will feel it later.
Injections: I take injections every six months. These are designed to lubricate and are preventative. I think they help people who are considering knee replacements, which to me are a last resort.
Anti-inflammatory Diet: There’s a book called The Arthritis Cure and it discusses the types of foods that are anti-inflammatory. Many vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids, like broccoli and fish, are very good for fighting inflammation in your joints. It also addresses the worst food for inflammation: sugar. That’s not a big shock, but it’s very difficult to give up sugar most of the time. I’m not a sugar-holic, but I still have to make sure to keep it in check. Especially with all these studies on how dark chocolate is good for you! Of course, everything in moderation. You can have a tiny bit to help get over your sugar craving
Regular Maintenance: Even though it’s annoying to do all of this maintenance, it’s important to keep it up. It’s worth it in the long run.
Stella Ross is the mother of two grown children and three grandchildren. She and her husband, Ralph, live outside of Atlanta.
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