Changing attitudes towards the treatment of osteoarthritis

A fellow basketball player friend of mine originally hurt his back and hip  in high school, about 25 years ago.  He was playing 2-3 times per week, but I hadn’t seen him in awhile until I ran into him at a social function.   Well, over the years his lower back and hip has progressively become more painful and he’s been unable to play basketball. Subsequently his weight has ballooned, his attitude had gone south, and to top it off, he now has high blood pressure.  So off he goes to the orthopedic specialist who takes an x-ray and promptly tells him that he has the hip of a 65 year old (no offense to those 65 year olds reading this), he needs to stop playing basketball because it will cause further arthritis, take an anti-inflammatory, and start a walking program for exercise.  No mention of any physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, or water therapy program and, more importantly, no hope of returning to basketball.

He asked me what I thought and my first question to him was whether or not he still enjoyed playing basketball.  His response was a resounding “yes, I love playing but I’m afraid I’ll never be able to play again”.  In response to his Eyore like answer, I gave him my suggestions:

1. Get your hip and back looked at by someone who will do a comprehensive bio-mechanical analysis of his gait and running technique, not just give you hip stretches that you can find on the internet. (FYI: upon evaluation, we found that his ankle on the opposite side of his painful hip was severely restricted, placing more stress on the opposite hip with running, jumping, etc)

2. Tell yourself everyday in the mirror that you will return to basketball, you must believe it.

3. Until you can do it on land, take up deep water running to keep the movement strong without the gravitational impact.

4. Get some body work done either by your Physical Therapist, massage therapist, or local Rolfer.  In addition, try a course of acupuncture.

5.  Start a strengthening program with body weight resistance and free weights, no machines.

6. Lose weight, no excuses, just do it.

7. Try Glucosamine/Chondroiton for 6 weeks

The results?  He’s had to limit the number of days in a week that he can play, but he’s BACK, doing something he loves, how great is that?

Sobering stats:

  • According the the American Arthritis Foundation, 27  million Americans have osteoarthritis that effects their quality of life. 
  • 632,000 joint replacements are performed each year in the US.
  • obesity is one of the main culprits of advancing osteoarthritis.

The mainstream medical community is finally understanding that the best thing for arthritis is to get moving!  Gone is the old attitude of rest and medication.  Studies have shown that reducing weight, starting a strength training program, and performing range motion/stretching exercises can significantly improve your quality of life as compared to medication alone.  Good luck!

Ed Deboo, Physical Therapist, Bellingham Washington