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Monday, January 23, 2012

When Do We Begin to Save Our Joints? More Musings from my footstool

This post is dedicated to Lynne.

     Just saw Lynne several days ago. Lynne brought up the age old question at her young age of 59 "do I stop running now to save my knees for the future?" Her knees have some X-ray and MRI findings of wear and tear. Lynne has never had any pain. She did have an episode of knee swelling and sought medical advice. Age old probably sage advice is to stop running since it is the most stressful of her activities on her knees.Lynne is high level triathlete. Yet is it the best advice for Lynne? Does running chew up your knees and hips and ankles silently until you wake up one day and can not walk? What do we know about the Nutritional Theory of cartilage health? What protects joints? What breaks them down? So many questions to be individualized for each of us. 

     My bias for recommending to Lynne to keep running comes from 5 factors. #1 Joint Cartilage is feed from pressure created in the joint from activity (nutritional theory of cartilage health). #2 Pain is our friend and will normally tell us way before severe damage is created that we must start limiting certain activities. #3 Sports Medicine for podiatrists evolved from being able to get injured knee patients to run pain free when the medical establishment was telling them to stop running forever, and I come from that time period of the mid 1970s.. #4 I personally want to keep exercising until I am 100 and I will continue to find ways to exercise (my last 3 orthopedic injuries found me at odds with surgeons wanting to cut, and I was able to successfully rehab each one, and am back playing full court basketball painfree). #5 When you break away from generalizations like stopping running to avoid knee wear and tear, you must own your knee more directly and do positive things daily for it. 

     So, Lynne had been running for 40 years, never had knee pain, did get swelling and her images showed classic wear and tear of a 59 year old. She did not have the knee joints of a 90 year old, so all the running she has done has not been bad for her knees. There was a famous study from Sweden or Norway (way up there) in the 1970s. Twelve 90 year olds who had died had there hip joints examined. All 12 never had hip pain. 6 of the 12 were very active their whole lives. 6 of the 12 were very inactive their whole lives. Guess who had the hip joint cartilage of 20 year olds--yes, the active group. The 6 individuals who had been inactive had hip joints of 90 years old (and not a day older). This study helped secure the global recognition that the cartilage in our joints needed pressure to drive the synovial fluid into the cartilage (a form of forced feeding). 

     Lynne stopped running to save her knees, but may be actually speeding their demise. Lynne can sure be smarter and try not to run down hill frequently where the force that your knee must absorb is up to 10 times body weight. And Lynne can get her knees strong with daily quad sets, straight leg raises, and short arc quad leg presses. Since most of her problem with wear and tear is behind the knee cap, and the load on the knee cap increases dramatically over a 45 degree knee bend, Lynne should do her activities and exercises in a 0 to 45 degree flexion range. Running is perfect for that, some parts of biking may not be. Let pain be your guide.  Lynne should ice her knees with swelling or pain after activities, she should wear a knee brace (I love the Bauerfiend GenuTrain for this problem) when she runs to see if it helps. She could also learn the many ways of taping her knee like McConnell Taping. She should take glucosamine daily. And lastly, Lynne should listen to her body and get back out there, and not listen to general rules that may not apply to her. And as Sue Sylvester on Glee says: And that is how I C it!

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Thank you very much for leaving a comment. Due to my time restraints, some comments may not be answered.I will answer questions that I feel will help the community as a whole.. I can only answer medical questions in a general form. No specific answers can be given. Please consult a podiatrist, therapist, orthopedist, or sports medicine physician in your area for specific questions.