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About this blog: I developed a special interest in helping seniors with their challenges and transitions when my dad had a stroke and I helped him through all the various stages of downsizing, packing, moving and finding an assisted living communi...  (More)

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Oh, My Aching Knees

Uploaded: Jul 19, 2017
About 2 years ago I started having knee pain in both knees. I have been a regular player at the Ross Rd YMCA pickup basketball games at lunchtime and Saturday mornings for about 10 years. A couple of years ago I was feeling especially randy and double-dipped: I played at the Mt View Y Saturday mornings 7-9am and then at Ross Rd from 10-noon. Things were going great, getting a double workout and playing my favorite sport. Until the knees started acting up. Turned out I had probably accelerated a loss of meniscus on the inner quadrants of both knees by too much basketball. How could that be. I love bball. So does every guy who plays at the Y. We can’t stay away. You can’t take basketball away from me. No, not that.

I went to see a doctor. And then another. And finally an ortho surgeon who had me scheduled for a surgery where they cut a wedge out of a bone in your leg, insert two metal pins that stick out of the leg so they can attach an adjustable plate which gets periodically adjusted with the goal of changing the weight bearing angle through my leg to take the pressure off the inner quadrant where the buffer between bones was wearing away (the meniscus.) First the one knee, then the other. Months of recovery required. With the end result, as per the doctor, that I would be able to play doubles tennis again (I don’t even play singles), I could play golf (that I can already play) and if I recall being able to ride a bike (which I already could still do.) But it would not result in playing basketball (not recommended) without pain. And he predicted within 10 years I’d still have to get my knees replaced.

Whoa. What to do? My wife was not looking forward to having to nurse me for near a year. Especially the first 6 weeks or so (per knee) of non-weight bearing movement. I did a little research asking Dr Google. I spoke to a couple of doctors I knew. I spoke with an old high school friend, a physical therapist who had been the trainer of an NBA team for over 25 years (as well as been head trainer for the NY Cosmos soccer team when Pele was with them.) He told me NO: over the years he had never seen a good outcome from this particular type of surgery. I also spoke to a physical therapy office and asked if they had worked with patients after this kind of surgery and they were not too enthusiastic about what they saw. I was still on the fence because I wanted to believe in it so badly. Then, as fate would have it, I ran into a guy around my age (64) who had had the same surgery, same doctor, and was very unhappy with the result. He didn’t go through with having the second knee done. Now, I don’t know if he followed the doctor’s rehab instructions carefully, or what could have contributed to a not-so-great outcome, but that was enough for me.

I next went to a physical medicine doctor who talked to me about strengthening the muscles around the knee and set me up with some physical therapy sessions. That was about a year ago. Today I can report my knees feel a lot better, I play bball once a week at the Y with some great knee braces with a metal hinge that keeps me lined up right, and I have no pain after the games. I can ride a bike, but as far as doubles tennis, not my game.

Then this morning, I had a flash of inspiration. Missing that running aerobic workout that bball 3 times a week gave me, I’m not sure how I thought of it while walking my dog Jackson but I flashed on those funny looking guys you see every four years at the Olympics. The racewalkers. I started racewalking, or my novice version of it. Arms pumping, trying to make sure one foot had contact with the ground at all times. I did one lap around Ramos Park and bingo, I was sweating, my quads were feeling it, and I felt great.

This post was supposed to be about race-walking but turned into my non-knee surgery story. Next post: racewalking, and powerwalking. Beyond the nightly stroll.
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Comments

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Jerry, a resident of another community,
on Jul 19, 2017 at 3:25 pm

I'm a bit older than you and about 10 yrs ago had a flareup in my right knee that had been building for several years from regular racquetball play. I was told I had bone-on-bone osteoarthritis and surgery was my only option. I don't like surgery, unless my life depends on it, so I looked for options in the area of joint health supplements, and found a combination that eliminated my pain and has allowed me to remain as active as I was before the OA started. I have been using this supplement (omniflex) for going on 10 yrs and still play racquetball at 81 and run several respectable 5K's every year. You might want to try it and see if it does the same for you on the basketball court. Good luck.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Max Greenberg, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 19, 2017 at 3:45 pm

Jerry - thanks very much for your comment and so glad you found something that works for you. I checked out the Omniflex website and it looks interesting. Have you actually been taking it everyday for these past 10 years because that would be a lot of Omniflex. But if its still working, much better than surgery. I might check it out. I need to be careful on my blog having folks promote or "testify" about particular products, so forgive me if I ask if you work for the company.Thanks again.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Jerry, a resident of another community,
on Jul 19, 2017 at 5:33 pm

Max - I have indeed been taking the ingredients that are used in Omniflex (fish oil, krill oil. rosehips. BioCell collagen II, and pine bark extract) for 10 years and I not only work for the company that makes the product, but am pretty much the company. I am a pharmaceutical scientist, who has late in life come to realize how bad drugs for chronic diseases can be, and how powerful natural substances are when they are properly formulated. I posted on your blog not to sell a product, but to make other people aware of this combination of natural ingredients that truly changed my life. That isn't hyperbole but a factual account of what these ingredients have done to extend my functional lifespan. I can assure you that making money selling supplements at age 81 isn't a motivating factor in my life. Making a few more people aware of a natural product that is health-enhancing and possibly an answer to their joint pain is my main motivational force. It's probably hard to believe that a commercial entity could behave in this manner, but I assure you it is true. As I've said many times, you can try the product for free, and if it helps you even half as much as it has helped me, you will be among the fortunate few who know about the product.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Clunge, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jul 20, 2017 at 2:09 pm

Thanks for the article... I'm not quite your age, but I have achy knees - had meniscus surgery long ago as a youth and recall the doctor stating I'd end up with arthritis in that knee. He was right - rain and cool temps make it act up. My wife had surgery a while back and said I should too - -no thanks, I'll just stop running on pavement I said and sure enough, they arent as bad. Her's still hurt, they just dont lock up - - I did go skiing this past year for the first time in awhile, I tool some edible weed for the arthritis and I'll be darned if I had a great two days of skiing pain free. So, that's another option - and it doesnt have to get you high.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Crotchety Curmudeon, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 20, 2017 at 3:08 pm

> Now, I don't know if he followed the doctor's rehab instructions carefully, or what could have contributed to a not-so-> great outcome, but that was enough for me.

Well, I was the one who guided Max into not going in for that surgery. The procedure is called: (a) Microfracture + (b) High Tibial Osteotomy with Medial Opening Wedge Technique using distraction osteogenesis.

The surgeon, in his own handwriting, gave me 90% odds of success, 9% OK and 1% poor outcome. I called 5 of his patients who had had success according to him. I should have asked him names of those who didn't get good results.
The recuperation period was 77 days. The surgeon and his staff complimented my wife on taking very good care of me and avoiding any infection. It was a lot of work, especially for her. I am better off than before but it was a long ride. A knee replacement might have been easier.
To learn more: Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Crotchety Curmudeon, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 20, 2017 at 3:08 pm

> Now, I don't know if he followed the doctor's rehab instructions carefully, or what could have contributed to a not-so-> great outcome, but that was enough for me.

Well, I was the one who guided Max into not going in for that surgery. The procedure is called: (a) Microfracture + (b) High Tibial Osteotomy with Medial Opening Wedge Technique using distraction osteogenesis.

The surgeon, in his own handwriting, gave me 90% odds of success, 9% OK and 1% poor outcome. I called 5 of his patients who had had success according to him. I should have asked him names of those who didn't get good results.
The recuperation period was 77 days. The surgeon and his staff complimented my wife on taking very good care of me and avoiding any infection. It was a lot of work, especially for her. I am better off than before but it was a long ride. A knee replacement might have been easier.
To learn more: Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Max Greenberg, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 20, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Crotchety Curmudeon: Thanks for writing in. I am glad to hear you now say you are better off than before. I didn't think it was for me and added your first hand experience to my trove of data. To have or have not surgery, that is a huge question. What made you decide not to get the other knee done if you felt you were better off after the first surgery? PS - Hope to see you at our 1st anniversary of our men's boomer meetup group. You were one of the original attendees...


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Max Greenberg, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 20, 2017 at 4:36 pm

Clunge: Being able to ski again, now that's something...
I've been hearing some good things from folks who have been using medicinal MJ for cancer and pain. Non or low THC for those who don't want to get that high feeling. It's pretty wild all the different varieties, strengths, effects that it comes in these days. And if you have a medical MJ card, home delivery.Back in the day, who would have thought...


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Crotchety Curmudgeon, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 20, 2017 at 4:52 pm

Max,
I had a meniscus tear only in one knee. Didn't need surgery in the other knee.
Post surgery, my two legs seem to go perceptibly in different directions because the center of gravity of the operated upon leg has changed.
The surgical technique employed was developed by Gavriil Ilizarov in the Soviet Union. It is still quite widely used in other countries.
To read more about Ilizarov apparatus: Web Link

Search on YouTube for very high quality lectures and videos by Dr. Mangal Parihar, a very
impressive orthopedic surgeon in Bombay. I tried posting the URLs but the comment system didn't allow.

Lecture - High Tibial Osteotomy for Knee Arthritis - Part 1 of 5
(Web Link)

Operative Video - High Tibial Osteotomy for Knee Arthritis - Part 1 of 5
Web Link


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Steven Rice, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Jul 20, 2017 at 6:22 pm

Exercise has been shown to be better than surgery for many orthopedic conditions. Of course you should still consult with a medical professional.

Here's a good article about knees:

Web Link

If you're cleared by a physician for exercise, I may be able to help. See www.StevenRiceFitness.com


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Lisa A., a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Jul 20, 2017 at 6:41 pm

Hi Max,

Thanks much for the interesting article. With the outcome that I had from miniscus surgery, I'd basically not recommend it. I look at it as a stop gap to a total knee replacement. Speaking of knee replacements, I think I mentioned to you previously, but not your readers, that you MUST have a metals test prior to any implants. Doctors don't recommend it because only 1 in a million have an allergy to whatever metal they want to use and providers don't want to pay for it. Your surgeon can be top notch, but if you're allergic, your knee will be miserable. I could go on and on, but to your dear readers, get a simple metal's test.

Max! Way to go on continuing to exercise!!!


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by So Silly, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Jul 21, 2017 at 2:44 pm

I have had multiple meniscus tears in both knees...with rest they all healed. All the MRI shows now are scars.

Don't do the surgery--it will pre-dispose you to total knee replacement. That is beyond painful, and has a one year recovery.

A knee implant keeps you from all impact sports and anything requiring flexibility. Do not go there!!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Robert Neff, a resident of South of Midtown,
on Jul 21, 2017 at 10:17 pm

Hi Max, I haven't been to the Y in awhile, but I thought I recognized you from there...

I think we have a tendency to see a silver bullet in surgery, instead of applying ourselves to a course of physical therapy first. I'm a fan of the book "Treat Your Own Knees" (there is a companion for Rotator Cuff, too), and find that if I actually do simple, specific exercises 3 days a week, and stretches every day, I recover in a few weeks instead of months.

Good luck maintaining your shot.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Max Greenberg, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 22, 2017 at 11:24 am

Thanks for all the good comments and personal stories etc. I wanted to clarify that what I have is wearing away of my miniscus, not a tear. I do believe that in some/many cases surgery to repair tears can be beneficial. There is no surgery I know of that can regenerate miniscus. I've been told that if I wait long enough there may be hope via stem cells to regenerate missing miniscus. In the meantime I'm working on strengthening the muscles around the knee and waiting for those stem cells to roll on in.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by JLN, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Jul 24, 2017 at 2:23 pm

JLN is a registered user.

Imaging evidence of torn knee meniscuses is common in older people. Just because one has knee pain and of a torn meniscus does not necessarily mean the latter caused the former, and probably explains the high incidence of failure from meniscus surgery.

Web Link

I speak from personal experience. Eventually my knee/leg pain was attributed to sciatica from spine disease.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steve Ludington, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Oct 15, 2017 at 12:56 pm

I had some knee pain...an MRI showed a small meniscus tear. Surgeon said the procedure would be routine and healing fast, but I decided to wait. A year or so, it got no worse. Then, I experienced some extreme pain triggered just by turning around. It was interfering with sleep and I was limping, so I went back and got another MRI. The tear looked different - had maybe "flipped over" the surgeon said. Anyway, it was improving fast, so I decided to wait again. Now it's been a year again and my knee has never felt better. I just finished a 100-mile hike in the Alps with zero knee pain - have even stopped wearing the knee braces. I guess the takeaway is just to not rush into knee surgery. Make SURE you need it.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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