HOUSE CALLS By Dr. Gerald Deas
When you want to walk with ease
When you knees become dis-eased
And pain comes knocking at your door
Follow some of my homespun advice
And your walking will feel nice
Then you’ll forget how they once were sore
As I was waiting for my tires to be changed in the garage, I began to reflect how often we change well worn tires but can’t change our knees. Don’t get me wrong, I know that we can have knee replacement in these modern times, but it is quite a procedure and expensive. During my practice of medicine, however, I have had many patients who have gotten new knees and praised God everyday.
We all are born with a beautiful set of knees, however over a period of time they can become injured resulting in stiffness and pain. Often, I observed the grimaces of pain on the faces of runners while they are running on hard surfaces such as concrete or asphalt. This type of exercise definitely over a period of time is capable of destroying the knee joint. Running is good for the heart but often not good for the knees.
The knee is the largest hinged joint in the body. The surfaces of the bones that make up the joint are lined with a very thin layer of a soft material known as cartilage. This tissue is very fragile and cannot withstand continuous pressure, which is transmitted by running even when proper athletic shoes are used. In fact, it has been recently discovered that the sole of the foot experiences less injury when the sole of the shoe is fitted properly to the anatomy of the foot. In other words, the thinner the sole, less pressure is transmitted to the foot and knee. I guess that is why American Indians could walk and run long distances by just wearing moccasins.
The knee joint is made up of the end of the upper thigh bone known as the femur and the two lower bones, the tibia and fibula. This joint is wrapped in a very protective sac known as the bursa, which helps to lubricate the opposing bones. The knee joint also consists of tendons, muscles and a complicated set of nerves and blood vessels. It is therefore necessary when we treat the knee joint that we take all of these things into consideration if we strive to reduce pain.
The knee joint has to have an adequate supply of nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, proteins and vitamins. The active form of vitamin D is vitamin D3 and is very necessary to supply adequate calcium to repair and replace damaged bone. The omega3 oil, which is supplied by the eating of salmon, bluefish, rainbow trout, halibut, mackerel and sardines lends to a healthy knee joint.
In treating knee pain, it is very important not to use medications such as Advil, Ibuprofen, Motrin and Aleve that can cause gastrointestinal bleeding especially in the elder population. Moderate exercise of the knees by just sitting and extending the leg several times daily will keep the joint mobile. It has also been recently found that the exercise known as tai chi reduces chronic pain and increases mobility.
Finally, newer results have been found to reduce pain using a combination of omega3 oil taken orally and massaging the knees with capsaicin gel which is derived from chili peppers (Zostrix), which is a topical analgesic cream.
And, please don’t forget to reduce stiffness and pain, warm Epsom salts soaks will do wonder for the knees.
This article originally appeared in the June 12, 2013 print edition.