Are your knees painful, stiff, or swollen? Whether you’re feeling occasional twinges, are in constant pain, or are looking to avoid future problems with your needs, this book is for you.”
READING THAT STATEMENT on the back of the book sold it for me. I’m at the beginning stages of knee pain and I know, if there’s one thing I don’t want in my life right now, it’s knee surgery! In this one volume I learned about the anatomy of the knee, why things go wrong with my knees, preventative measures to keep my knees healthy, exercises to strengthen my knees, treatments for knee pain, and how to gauge when it’s time to have surgery, if ever.
This book was written by Gregory M. Martin, M.D. who is a board-certified Harvard fellowship trained knee surgeon. Included in the book is a fitness program created by Bob Habib, RPT who is a registered physical therapist with 30 years of experience treating knee disorders. Even though this book was written by highly educated and credentialed individuals, it was so well written and easy to understand, the tone was personable and I could instantly relate to everything I learned.
Did you know your knee is really three bones and that the joint is made up of three parts? The overview of knee anatomy is fascinating, but also a valuable resource for understanding the remainder of the book. This chapter talks about cartilage and why a simple thing like drinking enough water is critical to knee health. I didn’t know that. Did you? Cartilage in a healthy knee rubs against cartilage and that’s why there’s no pain, but when cartilage breaks down, nerve endings in the knee bone are exposed and that’s what causes pain. That is just one very tiny fact. There is a comprehensive discussion of how all the components like muscles, ligaments, and tendons work together – and you don’t need a higher education degree to totally grasp the subject.
Many knee ailments are so common we hear about them all the time. Things like arthritis, osteoarthritis, meniscus tears, cysts that crop up out of nowhere, and trauma injuries. The truth is, as Dr. Martin points out, is that our knees, if we live long enough, will wear out. Having that understanding an important step in adopting preventative measures so our knees last as long as possible. “For most problems of the knee, we should be focusing on making the knee as healthy as possible and doing our best to thwart degeneration of the knee.” If knee surgery is required at some point, what you learned in this book will give you a better chance of a successful outcome.
One thing that impressed me about this book, is the fact that a knee surgeon is writing an entire program on the principle that surgery should be a last resort. Naturally that got my attention, because remember the last thing I want to do is have surgery. But the truth is my knees are starting to show those nefarious signs of degenerative tissue and I’m not fond of the pain. My favorite chapters in the book educated me on the combination of therapies I could seek and lifestyle changes I could implement. This short book summary can’t cover those elements as comprehensively as the book does, but I’ll share a few of the principles that helped me.
I already mentioned drinking water. That was a big aha for me. Who would think? But moving on in the areas of nutrition, Dr. Martin comes right out and says it. “Joint pain is often caused by inflammation, and inflammation is caused to a large degree by what we eat.” Seriously? Now I was curious! I had forgotten that there are foods labeled as ‘inflammatory’. A few ideas of these are: refined sugar, white flour, some cooking oils, full fat dairy products, fatty red meat, and good ole fast foods. No surprises there, right? In the summer time I’m more likely to follow a better diet of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, eggs, and lean meat – you know, fresh off the grill. In the wintertime though, I fall back into the home made refined comfort food. Maybe that’s why my knee hurts more in winter.
Or maybe my knee hurts more in winter because I don’t pay attention to my fitness regimen. In summer I walk more. In winter, like many other people, I cocoon inside and don’t exercise as often. And another thing Dr. Martin says is, “One of the best ways to keep your knees healthy, and to help them heal when they aren’t, is regular exercise.” The author provides a four component, balanced fitness program for improving strength, flexibility and mobility. 1. Endurance such as walking, biking, and elliptical trainers; 2.Strength and balance; 3. Stretching and flexibility; and 4. A cool down and relaxation. I’m a very visual learning and therefore appreciated the illustrations in the book showing specifically how to do basic, but supportive exercises for knee health.
The truth is, we will all experience some form of knee pain. Besides water, good nutrition, exercise and lifestyle, there are supplements such as glucosamine sulfate and turmeric that have been found helpful. For occasional pain, the authors suggest compression, topical treatments such as lotions or gels that contain menthol, and over the counter anti-inflammatories or acetaminophen.
If knee pain gets to the point where you’ve done as much as you can and a surgeon now needs to be involved, your treatments plan might start with injections or stronger medication. You might need surgery that’s arthroscopic, or more the more invasive type. Eventually you might need to have your knee replaced. This book can help educate you on questions to ask and assure that you are prepared for the best possible outcome.
This book is personable, educational, and written in a common sense, fully comprehendible style. The interspersed humor makes it a pleasure to read.