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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

some light? or not

I went to Las Vegas for an extended vacation with my daughters. During that whole time my right hip in particular was in pain, making it difficult to do any amount of walking. Sometimes I had little windows when the pain receded but it came back soon after. The weather in Las Vegas was cold and moist. I wondered if there were a connection.

I have simply dug in and let it be. I figure I will come out of this part too, as I have from extreme pain in my calf and knees. I have no proof of it but I am assuming this hip pain is making its mark and then, after several months, it will back off and not be so bad most of the time.

Yesterday I noticed I was much more able to move than I had been for some time. No right hip pain and in general I wasn't as stiff. I do not think I can attribute this to my three days of using My Fitness Coach on my new wii - those were fifteen minute sessions, very light - but hey, they didn't hurt either. The weather here has been cold and moist, so there again I have to assume there isn't much connection.

I also fell off the program with my glucosamine in Las Vegas, constantly forgetting to take it. I am back on track with that. Maybe it's a combination of moving my body, however lightly, and using glucosamine. I am hopeful.

I record these thoughts because I record changes. I do not look for anyone to suggest that I look into acai or chontroitin or chelated metals or anything else. As noted in the purpose statement for this blog, I look to exercise, some supplements, and diet to help me, and particularly I like the approach described in Arthritis Rx (see link at right). Thus I note changes, I note whether I am following or not following the program, and I try to perceive connections.

Edit: it's a bit later and suddenly I am hit with sharp pain in my right hip again...the respite is over.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Acai and beyond and an offer

Some readers may notice that I have allowed comments from persons who appear to have an interest in selling products made from the acai berry, a fruit of the acai palm, which is grown in South America. The berry is an interesting fruit, containing an unusually high amount of fat (for a fruit) and a rather grainy texture that is, according to some reports, a bit off-putting for some.

The persons who have posted these comments promote the use of acai juices and powders in the treatment of arthritis pain. As best as I can make out from my research, you would not likely harm yourself by using this juice. And the juice may be of help to you. That's why I have allowed these near-spam comments.

For the record, though, I am not a proponent of "super foods" whether naturally available or chemically made. I am a proponent of a diet comprised of whole foods, plant-based, organically grown and preferably grown nearby. This way of eating has been shown to be the best for health for everyone, including arthritis sufferers and those with diabetes, for example.

A compelling argument in favor of this diet is to be found in The China Study by Colin Campbell. The link is to my review of this book and includes a link to my amazon bookstore, where you can purchase it. I make an offer here, though: I will send you this book, straight from my bookstore, for free if you promise you will read it through, all the way through, and let me know what you thought of it. I will offer it to the first person who responds with a name and address and I will trust you to do as you say.

The media likes to stir up interest by letting us think it is impossible for us mere mortals to know just what is healthy and what is not in our diets. It isn't all that complicated. The media has an interest in adding to the confusion with articles that serve more to confuse than to enlighten, as such articles lead readers to read more, to keep searching. The sellers of products like acai berry products and enhanced pomegranate juice benefit from the confusion as well. People naturally want to do what they can to stave off illness and enlarge their life spans, and articles about single foods providing benefits sucker in a lot of readers. It doesn't have to be that way. Stick with the whole foods, as cleanly grown as you can get them, and you won't regret it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A new pain, new understanding?

Several weeks ago I started to have sharp pains in my right hip area, descending to the top of my right thigh. It made it difficult to walk without limping. At first I had trouble getting out of bed in the morning because the pain was so great. Over time, the pain has diminished at least to where I don't fear getting up. At times it goes away, I don't feel it when standing or walking, but it is usually just around the corner, waiting to come back.

My suspicion is that the arthritis has simply spread to my hip. My sensitivity to my left knee has placed additional strain on my right leg, and on my hip especially, which has caused the arthritis degeneration to accelerate in that area. I have no scientific proof of this situation, but it makes logical sense.

My hope is that the severe pain will diminish enough over time that I can manage things like longer hikes without much pain. It's probably what they call an arthritis flareup, and the first time it flares up the pain is much worse and longer-lasting.

When I speak to my doctor about arthritis pain all that he offers is pain relief, and we have had a struggle with that. First, I do not want to become dependent on anti-inflammatory drugs because they do not cure anything and they can cause more cartilage disintegration down the line. Interestingly, when I search for more information on this link, I find it more easily in articles on arthritis in companion animals than in humans. Yet we are all animals and we often respond similarly to the same treatments. The wikipedia article on osteoarthritis mentions damage to the articular cartilage related to the use of one of these drugs (presumably studies have not been done with the others or results have been inconclusive).

Another problem for me with Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) is that they go right to my stomach. I had a serious ulcer, caused by ibuprofen, in 2000. I have been sensitive to these drugs since then so I must avoid them. Acetaminophen is an alternative I use now and then that doesn't seem to offer much help either.

When I was in the hospital in Scotland in May, for another ulcer (this one caused by the H. pylori bacteria) I was given acetaminophen with codeine and did not experience side effects. I therefore mentioned this when at my regular doctor's office recently and he gave me a prescription for it that I can use when I need it. I have found that when I take two it sends me into that floating place that usually means I get nauseous as well, so that isn't a good thing. I have found I can take one with little ill effect so I do have that available for when I feel desperate.

Although this hip pain has been very bad for an exercise program I try to follow, I have rarely used that drug. Instead, I look for signs that the pain is diminishing, signs that this is indeed a flareup and eventually it will calm enough to allow me more movement with less pain.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Arthritis Rx DVD

After I read the Arthritis Rx book, which is the main focus of this blog, I hunted for an accompanying DVD. I did not find one. Until a few weeks ago. I decided to make another hunt on Amazon and one came up!

But there was only one available, from one of Amazon's affiliates, practice yoga in New York City, for $29.99. I ordered it. Today I tried it out.

The DVD has two of the three sets of exercises described in the book: A and B. Most people, according to the book, simply stick with the first set and never move on to B. The C set is for serious athletes. The exercises themselves are a little different from the ones in the book. Some are left out, others added. Most are the same, however. The DVD runs continuously, without a formal menu, and the A set moves right into the B. The two sets are prefaced by a brief introduction to Dr. Vijay Vad. In other words, it's a DVD without any glitz.

Set A is modeled by a woman, while Set B uses a man. A woman narrates. There is the obligatory yoga-type music in the background.

I liked using it. Although I have memorized the exercises in set A and can do them anywhere without the book or the DVD I liked being led through them this way. I saw some things in the postures that I could not tell from the descriptions and illustrations in the book, and I felt I was paying more attention to my form. It is also helpful for pacing the deep breaths, although there is nobody counting them out loud. The model forms a little "O" with her mouth when she exhales (although the book recommends breathing in and out through the nose), so you can tell the pace of her breathing.

I noticed today that again there is one available, from practice yoga, through amazon. It appears that when one is sold they put one more out there on amazon. Perhaps they even duplicate the DVDs as orders arrive. I looked on the website and did not find this DVD anywhere. I wondered if there would be more information about it there but there isn't.

I recommend it!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day cycling

I went on another short bike ride today. This time, though, I brought along two books to "release" on the way (check out bookcrossing) and I extended the ride a bit, checking out what was going on in the lower edges of downtown. I stopped for a deli sandwich, which I attached to my bike rack, and rode home.

I don' t much like stationary bikes. I wish I did. I just like to get somewhere. I like to feel the wind and I love the rush when I reach the top of a small rise (right now I don't attempt anything other than small rises). I like the smells and sounds and sights along the way. I wonder if I could hook a bike to a wii and have adventures...well, I don't yet have a wii but still.

It's encouraging. I feel better, stronger, I have more energy. I don't do much, honestly, just a half-hour ride generally, yet it does make a difference. And I know my knee thanks me. At least it isn't complaining yet.

Monday, April 21, 2008


I have been feeling good for a little while now so I thought I'd try bicycling again. I am no Lance Armstrong. I don't do it for the pain. So last week I went out every day and rode short routes, mostly flat. I managed it well, a bit of pain but no sudden wrench or other action. By the end of the week I even sped up some and liked it.

Half-hour rides, that's all. I am hoping I can keep them up. This week I aim to do four rides. On other days I have another plan.

Monday, April 7, 2008

stumbling along

I wrote my last post when I was in so much pain I felt a kind of despair. I wrote it not to ask for sympathy or help but to recognize it "officially".

I am not in that pain now, and it has been several weeks since I was. It took a while to get through it and I am not terribly patient about such things. I muddled along, doing what I felt okay doing, which wasn't much, and remembering that a while back an arthritis doc told me in times like this to just let it rest. It appears that something needed to heal or my body needed to adjust.

I am much better now. My laziness keeps me from making greater progress but I am maintaining some things I gained nevertheless. A friend and I went to a long opera the other day and she said it was all she could do to resist getting up during the performance because her legs were bothering her so much. I recognize that symptom, and I recognize that I rarely get it any more. I think the main reason is that I no longer eat cheese (except for the occasional slip) or other dairy products. I have no proof that this was the problem, no absolute proof, but the improvements I have seen followed my diet change so I am going to assume for now that the dairy products were at least part of the problem. Certainly that type fat isn't helpful.

I have gone on several flights in the past months and have noticed that my body handles them better.

In addition to this change the primary pain that was really getting me is gone. I am sure it is not gone for good because it is the type that has a habit of returning. But I am taking this opportunity to test out a new DVD - exercises for arthritis. So far so good. I am looking to get back to some weight training soon, too.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Reality bites

I am in a great deal of pain. I thought about waiting until it passes before writing about it but decided that it makes more sense to be as real as I can be.

I have certainly slid from the program. I don't say this with a lot of self-recrimination because this type thing, even though it is not difficult, can be difficult to keep up. I have known others who are perhaps better equipped, more able, to stay on track when starting a new routine, and I have learned that even these folks fall off the plan eventually. The trick is, as always, to keep getting back on.

So that's where I am now. I have been doing the arthritis exercises very infrequently and have resisted doing the 30-minute walks or hikes too. I do keep taking the glucosamine.

It has been painful to keep up the 30-minute sessions. Either my right hip or my left knee has been in pain a lot. I do know that if I just get out there and somehow struggle through it, even if it means doing several even shorter sessions, that at least I will feel I've done it and usually over time the pain eases a bit.

If there were clear gains every time I exercised it would probably be easier. It's difficult to stay on course without seeing positive results. And of course I do not know where I would be if I did none of this, how much worse I might be.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


I used the Darvon that was prescribed for about 24 hours. When I got the prescription I noted that there was enough for six days and I wondered what I would do if those days passed and I was feeling no better. Fortunately, I did not have to face that. After about 24 hours my knee was doing remarkably better. I stopped the Darvon but kept up the Celebrex and I am almost back to where I was before this episode.

In the meantime, I did look into flax seed oil again. I was thinking of getting casule but learned that it would take 10-15 capsules to get as much as one gets in one teaspoon. It's no good to cook it so I wonder where, other than in smoothies or other drinks, I might use it and like it. Then again, maybe smoothies are the way to go. Bananas, strawberries, ice and the flax seed oil. I'll think about it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I went to see a doctor yesterday. Actually a physician's assistant, who did a fairly cursory exam of my knee. She said it's possible that I tore the meniscus.

From Zimmer:


Because the meniscus is strong and elastic in people under 30, a forceful twisting injury (such as one that might occur while playing sports) or severe trauma (such as getting hit on the side of the knee) is usually required to damage it.

As we age, however, the meniscus gets soft and is more easily torn. Degenerative tears in patients 40 and older can be caused by a minor event or none at all. They are sometimes triggered by something as simple as squatting down to pick up a spoon from the floor. They are often the result of osteoarthritis.

Torn Meniscus

She prescribed Celebrex and Darvon to help me through this tough time. I brought both prescriptions to Costco. Unfortunately, they did not have any Darvon (generic version) in stock, so I took home the Celebrex yesterday afternoon and will pick up the Darvon this aft.

I took one tablet of Celebrex last night, with food. So far I am not noticing any improvement in symptoms, sad to say. The pain has gotten to the point where I had trouble getting to the pharmacy in Costco. Such a wide expanse to cover. I grabbed a cart to hold onto and tried to relax.

While I try to avoid taking medications there are times the pain is so continuous and so debilitating that I just want it gone at whatever expense. (I worry about taking anti-inflammatories for long periods.) I am trusting that this is some kind of "episode" that will pass, that if I take the pain and inflammation meds for a short while they will get me through it and I will be back where I was.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

some progress?

Yesterday my knee was hurting still, and I did not want to do the regular arthritis exercises. I should have done them anyway but I did not.

Today, though, I got in my thirty minutes. I did it by pushing a cart around Costco for over 30 minutes. The cart gave me a crutch of sorts, some help, and even though it was initially very painful I felt able to manage better as I went on. After about 45 minutes I started to lose it, though, and was grateful to get back to my car.

What I learned: if I bring a cane or walking stick with me I can do better, at least get through the 30 minutes, while I am in this rather miserable state.

Friday, January 11, 2008

a step back

Lately, for the past several days, I have had a resurgence of significant pain and stiffness in my left knee. After months of not having much, if any, pain in that knee, suddenly it came back with a vengeance. Today I spent an agonizing 20 minutes or so in a grocery store trying to grab a few groceries and finding it so difficult I had to lean on the cart and grit my teeth and keep going.

I don't know why this happened. I have fallen off the exercises before and I have been in cold weather before. Yesterday I tried to get in 30 minutes of simple walking and it was so hard, so painful, that I stopped at 17 minutes. I am hoping, still, that by getting out there, pain or no, I will move past this and feel better and be able to do more.