By Dr. Scott E. Rosenthal
Do you feel like your knee is hanging on by a string? Wonder how you’re supposed to get through life (let alone walk 10 feet) when your knee is swollen, painful and unstable? Having suffered from a sports-related injury that left me in chronic pain for years, I believe my experience, personal struggle and quest for alternative solutions can offer you hope for dealing with your own knee problems without surgery or excessive medication.
First, there are important facts to address about most knee problems to address before a long-term solution can be obtained:
Too often a healthcare approach is plagued by tunnel vision. Only the area of pain is addressed and treated while the underlying cause is neglected. This is most evident in the case of the knee. I have found in my personal situation and with many of my patients that the majority of knee conditions are caused by problems within the pelvis. The exception is when there is clear and direct trauma to the knee itself.
The body has a unique way of alternating the function of adjacent joints. The ankle is very flexible and can move in multiple directions. Jump up to the knee and you will find a joint that has limited motion (hinges). Move higher up and you find a hip joint that functions more like the ankle with great flexibility and multidirectional movement. The low back again is relatively inflexible in comparison to the hip. The same pattern that alternates between a joint with much movement followed by one with that is more stable with less movement can also be seen in the upper extremity (wrist, elbow, shoulder and neck).
Problems arise when a joint region that is highly moveable and flexible becomes stiff and inflexible. Your hips are prone to this dysfunction (which may or may not be painful or noticeable). When hip function is greatly diminished, abnormal forces are transferred to the knee. Over time, the over-worked knee becomes unstable, leading to excessive wear and tear, inflammation and, ultimately, pain. If left uncorrected, the prolonged stress causes accelerated degeneration.
The complexity of the problems arising in the “simple” hinging joint of the knee can’t be understated. A successful approach is one that views the problems in layers or as an equation with multiple parts. All of the following must be considered and treated: bone alignment (including all the joints of the lower extremity, spine and pelvis), nerve suppleness, muscle weakness and spasm, distortion of fascial tissue (thin sheath of fibrous tissue enclosing a muscle), and the existence of chronic trigger points (a sensitive area in the muscle or connective tissue that becomes painful when pressed on). Although one component may be a dominate factor, the magic happens when all pieces of the puzzle are corrected.
Like so many health conditions, the answers cannot be found in a pill bottle. The knee is no exception. Drugs are incapable of correcting the physical dysfunctions mentioned above. Of greater concern, masking the symptoms can allow the problem to progressively worsen without your awareness. Such an approach can not only put you on the fast track to the surgeon’s office, but can prevent you from living life to its fullest and doing all the activities you like to do.
My quest to solve my own knee condition may have taken years, but it led me to find a unique combination of techniques that bring the greatest results. This journey forced me to look outside the box which included training under doctors who have worked with Olympic and professional athletes, inventors of groundbreaking methods, and much personal experimentation and innovation. The protocol that emerged nearly eliminated my own knee problem and has helped countless others. To my surprise, modifying the protocol has also helped improve function and reduce pain in those who recently underwent knee replacement surgery.
Although I find great success in helping those with knee pain, there are times when the condition has progressed too far. For these people I am thankful for the more invasive approaches available. It has always been my motto that I am grateful for drugs and surgery when they are needed, but more grateful when they can be avoided.
I believe that starting with the conservative protocol that I use makes sense. It’s safer, cheaper and solution oriented. Fortunately, the response to care tends to be quick and only takes a handful of visits to know if success is possible. If results are seen, care is continued. If not, I let the patient know as soon as possible that they need to consider other avenues.
With a multifaceted approach, you have a great opportunity to find meaningful relief or resolution of your knee pain. Drugs and surgery may be avoidable and replaced with a safe, comfortable, and inexpensive approach. Don’t ignore the problem. Take the first step into a better future. After all, the health of your knee is hinging on it!