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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Study finds persons with knee arthritis often choose own treatment

The Arthritis Foundation reports on a study done in Canada that suggests that a majority of persons with arthritis of the knee choose their own course of treatment. The participants in the study were recruited by pharmacists and the majority were white heavy women, average age 63. (The report calls them "overweight" or "obese". I reject these terms because there is no perfect weight and "obese" is a word with no medical basis. I am fine with calling myself "fat".) I laughed because I fit that description, almost perfectly.

The researchers were surprised to find that so many of these participants started exercise programs or took drugs or supplements without advice from a doctor. Interestingly, at the start of the study about half of the participants exercised regularly, and at the end over 3/4 did. This is far higher than the average in this country, where about 15% of adults exercise regularly. This suggests to me that this is a group of take-charge persons.

It does not surprise me that so many went out on their own, without medical advice. The times I have gone to doctors for help with my arthritis have been many, and the assistance I have gotten has been minimal. In the early days of my arthritis, when I was in my 30s, the condition was not even diagnosed but I was sent to a physical therapist a couple of times. I think this was good but I did not keep it up and it was only when I started bicycling (something I did on my own) that I started to see results.

I cannot recall any suggestion from any physician that a physical fitness program could be designed specifically for me. Losing weight has been suggested and of course that's a good idea (easier to recommend than to do) but the main treatments suggested have been the use of drugs and, if possible, knee replacement. More than once I have been in such pain that I left the medical office feeling I was not heard, that my pain was not recognized. Perhaps because arthritis is not life-threatening it is also just not interesting enough. Many people have it so it's a big boring pain to the medical personnel as well.

Wouldn't it be nice if some of these doctors really thought, "How can this person really be helped?" Wouldn't it be great if some of them were enthusiastic about working with us to achieve results? When I met with Clara, my "trainer", I was most struck by her enthusiasm and hope for me, as well as her care in determining just what was hurting and how I responded to different moves. Would that I had even heard that it would be possible to design a workout specifically for me, from a doctor.

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