Osteoarthritis and Me: NOT a Love Story

If you are an endurance reader of my blog you may remember that late last year I assessed various issues that I had going before embarking on my first Etape journey. Age was one, which couldn’t be solved unfortunately; weight was another, and that one I did pretty well with; the last one was a knee problem that had nagged me for years and had gotten worse over time. After x-rays and an MRI it was concluded that I had the beginnings of osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease that seems to be all too common with athletes.

My overweight, chain-smoking sports doctor (he also has a most worrying nervous twitch), after wading through my poor French, figured out that I really wanted to do something about this problem, and after seeing the tan line on my legs he started taking me seriously (“Ah, it’s true, you ARE a cyclist!).

What he prescribed was a treatment of Viscosupplementation, which involves 3 weekly shots (into the knee) of  hyaluronic acid. Sorry to repeat an early article, but I’m getting to my point soon enough.

After the 3-week treatment my pain virtually disappeared and, as is always the case with such things, I totally forgot I ever had a problem. For the first time in years I could push as hard with my left knee and with my right – pretty important for racing, I thought.

Doing what would have been unthinkable in 2010: pushing hard with the left knee

Well, it was never meant to last forever and it didn’t. Around the beginning of September I started feeling vague pains in the knee, and now I’m nearly back to where I was before the treatment.

What I want to say about all this is this; the treatment really works miracles, at least for me (my doctor said it’s more effective in the beginning stages of osteoarthritis), and I’ll gladly fork out the couple hundred Euros it will cost for my next round of shots, which, if I wait till December, should get me through my 2012 season pain free. I just hope he can control that twitch for 3 more injections…

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17 thoughts on “Osteoarthritis and Me: NOT a Love Story

  1. Hi Gerry – Talk about timing. I just wrote a blog post yesterday about “Joint Health” and for the most part, you’re already doing the 4 strategies I recommend to avoid joint discomfort. One suggestion that I’m still on the fence with is the use of Glucosamine/Chondroitin, plus Omega-3.
    These three supplements are said to have the following benefits.
    1) Glucosamine: stimulates cartilage and connective tissue cell growth, while helping promote lubricating fluids in your joints.
    2) Chondroitin: provides cartilage with strength and resilience.
    3) Omega-3 Fatty Acids: is widely known for its anti-inflammatory benefits
    The benefits of Omega-3 as an anti-inflammatory are well documented and I recommend it to everyone, but the results of Glucosamine/Chondroitin are still inconclusive from a clinical trails perspective. That said, one can’t ignore the positive results stated by the millions of people that suffer from osteoarthritis, even if they are anecdotal. Since the side effects are so minimal, it’s one of those supplements worth trying. Here’s the link to my full blog post in case you want more information: http://www.nofinishlineblog.com/2011/11/4-ways-.html

    • I read that article, but this one came out independently…unless my subconscious played a part. I’d much rather work at this thing in a preventative way, so those supplements are very good to know. I’ll bet I don’t get much Omega-3 in my diet, so that’s a pill I’ll be looking for at the pharmacy. The other two I’ll ask Monsieur Google about soon. Thanks for directing me back to your article, too, since it all just sort of went over my head when I read it…’joint problems’…can’t be me!

  2. I heard that at one time the Glucosamine results pointed to some benefits for knees but nowhere else. As far as Robert’s suggestion that we can’t ignore positive anecdotal results, I would be wary. I suffer from many aches and pains and I take no remedies for most of them and they often go away. If I had taken a remedy while they were still painful, I might easily believe that it was the remedy rather than time the great healer that had made the pain go away. I would be wrong to do so.

    I hope your treatment works again.

    • Wise words, Mr. Tootlepedal. In my case though, I like to think I gave the great healer enough time (well over 5 years) to get it figured out. I read that the treatment works even better the 2nd time around, so I’m hopeful. Thanks.

    • Tootlepedal, thanks for your comment. Let me clarify, I’m skeptical whether these supplements are truly effective and I’m not suggesting Gerry hang his treatment plan based on anecdotal evidence. Many drugs get past through the FDA with less anecodotal evidence than Glucosamine and documented knowledge of serious side-effects. My blog post suggests 4 strategies for positive joint health, including exercise, weight reduction, healthy diet (low in acidity) and Vitamin D and when all fails, consider alternatives. And yes, time does play a role in the recovery of acute injuries, but has little to no impact for those suffering from joint discomfort resulting from degenerative diseases like Osteoarthritis. My blog further features a colleague of mine that was diagnosed with OA in his knees 2.5 years ago and through good diet, low in acidity and regular exercise has completed a marathon and 12 half marathons and virtually eliminated his knee pain. I believe if we take care of our bodies, it will take care of us.

      • I’m not against trying to cure ailments. I had three goes of steroid injections into my shoulder to try to clear a frozen shoulder. The third one worked for a time but three years later I still have a hard time trying to scratch my nose with that arm when cycling. I do believe that good diets work wonders.

  3. That’s tough, Gerry. I’m sorry to hear that news. Chris has the beginnings of osteoarthritis in his judo-damaged knee too, so we can both symphathise. However, I’m very glad that your course of treatment is working well. I hadn’t heard of any of those treatments before so I’ll certainly look into them – thanks for sharing the info.
    We’re still cycling every day, thanks to this great weather. And heard today that there are plans to start a cycling club in our local village of Nouzerines. Chris and I will be first to sign up!

    • Thanks for the sympathy, Steph. I have a sneaking feeling that my knee problems stem from my martial arts days as well because I put them (and many other things) through a lot back then. Judo will do it for sure, with all the time they spend on the mat!

      Great to hear about the cycling club, too! I’m going to try and schedule more group rides next season, so I can learn more about pack riding and practice my woeful French! Enjoy the weather while it lasts!

  4. Hi Gerry,
    Injections are indeed useful if you have an upcoming event that you want to enjoy but you could do a whole lot more to manage your condition, especially as it is in the early stages. Using cold after you have exercised will reduce the effect of the exercise. Frozen peas work fine but wrap them in a tea towel first. Use 2 packets, rest your knee on one and then place a large bag over the top with it draped down the sides of your knee. Leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes and leave 60 minutes between applications. Use cold after exercise or when in pain but use heat when you feel stiff- for example first thing in the morning. Same method but use hot water bottles. You can also use rest, activity, splints, massage therapy that you do yourself and get a good exercise programme of stretching, isometric and isotonic exercises. Make sure these are for someone with OA and that you know how many repetitions to do (too many will make your symptoms worse but not enough will not improve your joint function). For more information pop over to my site at http://www.exercisesforosteoarthritis.com and maybe you won’t need that second lot of injections! Best of luck with it fellow sufferer!

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