BY DR. DAVE HEPBURN | AUGUST 25, 2010
I’m a true blue degenerate
Many of you are degenerates. I am talking about you – athletes, men, women and I’ll also throw in my sister, like I did in that poker game in Kuwait 10 years ago. (She still writes.) Vision, hearing, muscles, bones, hair, hormones and joints are all degenerating by the minute. Here is how I became a degenerate. While playing basketball I jumped and landed on my right leg and felt a sudden and severe pain in my knee. Had this been soccer I would have laid there writhing in pain for three days or until someone pulled out a yellow card in which case I would have been instantly cured. But I kept playing/limping, though apparently nobody could tell the difference. By the end of the game, having exhausted my body and my personal sideline supply of narcotics, I went and saw a kneeologist. I had broken some cartilage off of the end of the bone, that shiny white stuff at the end of the chicken bones, not that my bones are chicken, no not at all. The loss of that protective cartilage has left me with a degenerate knee also known as osteoarthritis (OA). So now I’m a true blue degenerate.
OA, be it of common areas like the knee, hip or base of the thumb, involves a thinning of the protective shiny cartilage that prevents bone from painfully grinding on bone. OA is caused by micro cracks/crevasses or flakes in the cushion, likely caused by many factors including age, genetics, trauma and repetitive usage. I chose trauma. Though the primary cause is unknown it may have to do with the increased water or calcium content of the cartilage and decreased protein tenacity of the cartilage. Cartilage does not regenerate in mature adults or soccer players. Osteoarthritis is NOT osteoporosis. Has nothing to do with it, but some folks mix up the two because the prefix “osteo” is involved. Get your degenerate condition correct please. Just because they both start with “osteo” doesn’t make them the same thing any more than Stephen Harper is the same as Stephen King (OK bad example).
OA hurts and hurts and then hurts, particularly at night when the pain may cause you to toss and turn and tear your pillow and/or Paddington Bear to shreds. When all the cartilage in your knee or hip is gone, the only effective treatment is to replace the whole joint. Joint replacements are now lasting twelve to twenty years or more and most remain pain-free. There are some very promising treatment options on the horizon including nanofiber gels that promote cartilage growth in joints, stem cell research and even electromagnetic pulses to help restore cartilage cells to their more youthful state.
But I don’t want to be the only degenerate left in my sorority with a torn teddy so here are some tips for how you can join me in my misery and get OA.
1. Injure your joints. Sports that induce joint fractures can turn into OA. Stick to something non-contact like Chinese Checkers or playing left wing for the Maple Leafs.
2. Place repeated stress on the joint, such as heavy physical activity or being bowlegged. My downfall was that I am “pretty bowlegged” two words that really don’t belong together.
As you can see by my photo I am indeed pretty, but what you can’t see is that my knees are so far apart that Kirstie Alley, the sequel, could waddle through these wickets carrying a peck of pickled peppers.
3. Apply for some parents with OA. Genes regulate angles of joints, body weight, enzymatic activity and repair. If you prefer to have a degenerate knee, order Asian parents as even ethnicity plays a role. Asians have the highest OA of the knee yet lowest of the hip.
4. Get older. OA affects more than 10 percent of those under age 65 and some 50-60 percent of those over 65.
5. Lose your hormones, because you then lose muscle and bone strength.
6. Gain weight. Even as little as three pounds can make all the difference. I have this cut off weight where the pain disappears but if I gain the three pounds back and go over 387 then the pain returns.
7. If you’re male then change your sex as females have more OA. And you will have way more fun in life as a female unless of course you happen to be... my sister.