A few months ago, I found out about a state-of-the-art pain treatment center that provides non-surgical alternatives for knee pain. (It's right down the street from Jill's house!) I went in for a consultation, had new x-rays taken, and found out about their programs.
As it turns out, I am an excellent candidate. My arthritis is advanced enough to benefit, but not so extreme as to render it untreatable. Here are a few of the things I have difficulty with:
setting/releasing the brake pedal in my car
putting on pants
putting on socks
extended periods of walking
extended periods of sitting
extended periods of standing
walking down stairs
Also, my relatively young age works in my favor. (At this facility, I am a bona fide spring chicken!)
The 8-week program involves extensive physical therapy, custom-made leg braces, electrical stimulation, massage, and a series of injections that gradually build up a synthetic cushioning in the joint. Instead of having knee surgery every 2-3 years until I am old enough for knee replacements, I can repeat this program every 2-3 years as needed, indefinitely, with a high probability of never needing replacements at all!
I was completely convinced, and wanted to start the program immediately, but as even our portion of the cost is kind of high, I had to wait until we got our new FSA allotment in January.
Anyway, today was the day! Today I started what I hope is a whole new life of reduced pain and increased activity and mobility. I am filled with hope.
Part of my physical therapy includes using a zero-gravity treadmill. What a strange experience! Basically, you wear a special pair of neoprene shorts, then you get zipped into this contraption that pulls up around your waist. The machine weighs you, then you can tell it what percentage of your body weight you want to exercise with! My PT punched in 50% of my weight, and I walked, completely pain-free. When my time was almost up, she punched it up to 80% and I felt the old familiar pain return immediately. Before turning it off, she put it up to 100% and I felt a serious twinge of disappointment. Man, it felt good being 50% lighter!
I did all kinds of targeted exercises, and then was treated to a knee massage and ice packs. Ahhhhhh. I could get used to this! Two more weeks of physical therapy before the injections begin. I am really feeling like this could be my big break. Hoping and praying.
p.s. All of the other patients I saw were easily 30 years old than me. It makes me feel really old. Or young, depending on how I look at it!