Osteoarthritis is often considered to be the wear and tear form of arthritis but it’s not so simple. The question is why is this amazingly designed joint breaking down? The knee is made up of bones with complex geometry surfaces, cartilage, meniscus membranes, synovial fluid for lubrication and tendons to stabilize the entire contraption. When all is as it should be it does a tremendous job. The “all as it should be” is the sometimes tough part.
Inflammation is a serious factor in the poor health of joints and the knees are no exception. There are many inflammatory triggers including poor alignment of the hip to foot complex or having one leg slightly shorter than the other causing abnormal pressure and wear on one small part of the meniscus and cartilage. In other cases it may be a combination of tight and/or weak quadriceps or hamstring muscles. As we sit for prolonged periods, these muscles shorten and once we stand, they don’t go back to their full length. When the quadriceps muscles are weak, they don’t properly stabilize the patella (knee cap) causing friction and irritation.
Certain foods can case inflammatory joint problems for some; particularly if they suffer from Leaky Gut Syndrome which is rapidly becoming much more common. For those who are sensitive, proteins from wheat, dairy or the nightshade family (tomato, potato and peppers) escape into the blood stream and cause an inflammatory immune response. If suspecting one of these, simply spend a few weeks religiously avoiding these triggers. If things improve, you can then test re-introducing them one at a time to determine which the culprits are. In many cases there will be more than one problematic category so initially eliminating all may be the best option.
Sugar and corn syrup all by themselves have been shown to have significant pro-inflammatory effects. Unfortunately a recently published study shows that sugary baked goods and pastries are the number one source of calories in the American diet. Soda pop with its own burden of sugar and corn syrup is number six. Truly horrifying statistics when it comes to human and joint health; totally aside from the massively added pressure on knees when overweight or obese.
Just as certain foods can worsen inflammation, other nutrients and foods may be able to quell it without the dangerous side effects pain and anti-inflammatory medications are prone to; including death.
Many with inflammatory conditions have reported the following to be beneficial: Sophisticated nutrient protocols such as Arithrimend, astaxanthin which is a unique and powerful antioxidant which has the added benefit of being able to cross the blood-brain and blood-retinal barriers (must be natural source to be effective), curcumin (extracted from turmeric), turmeric, live plant digestive enzymes such as DigestPlus taken on an empty stomach, tart cherry juice/ tart cherry juice extract (also reported to be beneficial for gout) and Devil’s Claw extract.
Mechanical and technological assistance: The alignment from hip to feet and the arch of the foot are critical in keeping the knees functioning smoothly. As the arches become flatter, the knees begin to bow inward. This puts tremendous pressure and wear on small areas of cartilage rather than the stress being evenly distributed.
I’ve personally never found commercial arch supports which properly aligned my feet, arches and knees. I strongly suggest seeing a specialist in custom orthotic insoles. You may save some money by going to a chain or a computerized franchise but you only have one set of knees and can only have two knee replacements in a lifetime due to the bones’ limitations. If one leg is a little shorter, a simple small cork wedge of the appropriate thickness under the heel works well.
To immediately stop the swelling and pain, pulsed magnetic resonance stimulation units such as the Mediconsult iMRS or Swiss Bionic Omni One may offer dramatic relief but cannot correct the underlying alignment issues if present.
Use them or lose them applies to the knees as well. One exercise you may wish to consider doing every day will greatly stimulate the production of the lubricating synovial fluid, stimulate the development of new cartilage and help the knees move better; although it will be quite uncomfortable at first.
Kneel on the floor with your knees together and your upper feet flat on the floor about 12-14 inches apart. Place a small pillow between your feet and gradually sink back, lowering your backside toward the pillow. If your knees are too tight initially you may need more pillows for height. Hold for at least sixty seconds at least once a day. If the floor feels painfully hard, you can fold a towel of blanket to give some padding. Aside from the folding pressure in the knee you will likely feel the stretch in your quadriceps, tops of your feet and shins.
Recent research has shown that the proteins which make up muscle fibers stretch and hold their long much more easily if there has been oxidative stress in the muscles; in other words, the muscle has had to work first. Given this new knowledge I would suggest going for a brisk walk or some other leg exercises for you before starting, if practical.
Arthroscopic surgery for meniscus tears: A recent blind study showed there was no difference between physio therapy and surgery in pain relief or speed of response. One group received real surgery, another received placebo surgery where an incision was made, but nothing done, followed by physio. There was no statistical benefit from surgery and given the explosion of antibiotic resistant bacteria everywhere in our environment, I’ll always opt to avoid surgery if at all possible.
Steroid injections: These may offer very rapid and dramatic relief at least in the short term, but they have a very dark side. Aside from seriously depressing the immune system, these powerful drugs cause the smooth ends of the joints to erode. Just what you need when you have knee issues. I personally would only use this as an absolutely last resort after trying everything else.
The above is based on my experiences, input from healthcare professionals and my clients’ reported experiences. It is not intended as medical advice. As always, consult with your trusted healthcare professionals and inform yourself before embarking on any program.
I wish you happy knees.
The above is not intended as medical advice. As always, consult with your trusted healthcare professionals before making changes to your health regime.