Here’s a statistic that may bring you to your knees: the number of knee replacements performed in the United States in 2012 was more than 670,000 — at a cost of some $36.1 billion. But according to orthopedic surgeon Dr. Gregory Martin, a substantial portion of these and other surgeries might be avoided if patients were better educated on taking care of their knees. To help, he’s written Education4Knees: Everything You Need to Know for Happy, Healthy and Pain-Free Knees.
The book is as the title says: smart, upbeat, and comprehensive. It’s written in a no nonsense style, filled with refreshing candor for a doctor, with plenty of easy to follow tips, strategies, advice, and exercises. Dr. Martin’s approach is what you may well wish your own doctor took with you. Not only does he outline everything you didn’t even know you needed to know, and answer all the common questions, he has workable solutions, including simple lifestyle changes, that will help you feel less pain, have to take less medicine, move a lot more comfortably (and frequently), and possibly even avoid surgery altogether.
This is a doctor who really knows knees. As he writes, “I am, after all, an orthopedic surgeon, but I spend most of my day talking people out of surgery.” He’s treated countless patients — non-surgically as well as surgically — and has been on the forefront of treatments, designing benchmark knee replacement techniques. The book’s explanation of the mechanics of the knee joint may well cause more than one Aha moment for a reader: no one has been so clear on why water is good for it, or why so much can go wrong. Interestingly, as Dr. Martin writes, the fact that he’s from a family of mechanics made explaining the nuts and bolts of knees easy.
In Education4Knees, Dr. Martin stresses the need to find solutions for pain, not dwell on reasons. There is, indeed, an enlighteningly clear discussion on the different kinds of knee pain — arthritis, meniscal tears, Baker’s cyst, trauma to the knee, a runner’s knee, and other issues, and why they happen — a comfort for those mystified by why they can’t stand up without wincing. But no matter what the cause of your knee pain is, asserts Dr. Martin, the treatment and approach are often the same. With knees, it’s not as much the why the pain happens as what to do to avoid it. Figure out how to best manage it and deal with it for the long-term, he points out, and you’ll be much better off.
Modern medicine, Dr. Martin writes, spends far too much energy pinpointing an anatomical problem and trying to just mechanically fix it. He cites the example of a tennis player with a cyst and a torn Meniscus. The 65-year-old has arthroscopic surgery, and emerges with the cyst gone and the tear fixed, but he’s soon in pain once again. Turns out that in many cases, arthroscopic surgery doesn’t solve the problem — in fact, according to a number of studies, many people are unhappy with the results. What should have happened is a plan to keep the knee as healthy as possible for as long as possible — and prevent its degeneration in the first place.
The plan the doctor-author outlines is a basic but profound change in lifestyle; a big picture approach involving fitness and exercises, nutrition, and awareness. His logic is simple: you need lighten the pressure your knees take from every single step, keep them better lubricated, and keep moving. How to lose weight? No fancy diets necessary: just cut your portions in half, writes the doctor, who adds that he did it himself. He also collaborated with a skilled physical therapist on a ten-minutes series of daily exercises that are incredibly easy to do at home — for many, all you need is a chair. And among the supplements he recommends is turmeric, which has been shown to be as effective as ibuprofen in treating pain.
So why do our knees hurt? For most of us, it’s a given, he writes. If we live long enough, our knees are going to wear out. He calls this “The Final Common Pathway,” involving the deterioration of the joint over time. We don’t expect cars to go forever, he reasons: parts will have to be replaced. That reality makes it all the more important to learn how to maintain your knees to begin with. But when the time possibly comes that your knees do go bad, Dr. Martin’s got a whole spectrum of strategies for the best outcome possible.
While each of the problems that beset a knee can also lead to joint deterioration and surgery, making these recommended lifestyle changes may well help keep that final outcome at bay — and keep you upright, running, dancing, moving, and happy. And if you do have to have knee surgery, the doctor points out, the better shape you’re in, the better your recovery will be. In a way, this is a book that empowers us with the skills we need to keep standing. And that’s good news for anyone who’s ever dealt with knee pain, which is most of us.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00RWSHAFG]