I receive many questions each month from subscribers to Women's Health Letter. Since I can't reply to all of them in my newsletter, I've decided to answer some of them periodically in these health alerts. I hope they provide you with some answers to your own questions.
I recently received the following email from Fran (I changed the name to protect her privacy):
"I want to prepare myself for arthroscopic knee surgery in the coming weeks. What can you suggest for a quick recovery?"
Fran, my first suggestion is to make sure arthroscopic surgery is the right solution to your knee problem. Many of us get debris in our knees as we age, but that doesn't always cause pain. Cleaning out debris won't get rid of pain that's due to lax ligaments. And loose ligaments are very common. And if that is what's causing your pain, arthroscopic surgery won't help.
Fortunately, there's a simple, non-surgical way to fix lax ligaments. You can strengthen them with a treatment called prolotherapy.
Here's how it works: a doctor injects an irritant solution (usually sugar-water) into the joint. This injection causes inflammation and tricks your body into thinking a new injury has occurred.
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The immune system responds to this "injury" by sending cells called macrophages, which remove debris and irritants from the body. After the macrophages carry off the debris, the immune system sends in fibroblasts, cells that re-build connective tissue where damage has occurred. This rebuilding process results in new ligament growth, which can be 40 percent stronger than the original ligament. It also results in the acceleration of re-growth of cartilage tissue!
Subscribers to Women's Health Letter can read more about prolotherapy on my website (February 2004, Sugar-Water Therapy).
Now, back to your question. If you really do need arthroscopy, you first want to stop all blood thinners for at least one week before and one week after surgery to avoid excessive bleeding. This includes aspirin, gingko biloba, garlic, ginger, vitamin E, and a host of herbs including chamomile, echinacea, and willow bark. If you're taking a lot of supplements, bring them to your local pharmacist and ask which ones could thin your blood. When in doubt, stop everything for these two weeks.
Finally, there are two homeopathic remedies I always use with my patients who undergo surgery: arnica and hypericum. You can get homeopathic pellets in just about every health food store in the country. The strength for each of these homeopathics should be either 6x or 30C.
Alternate taking each of them in between meals at half-hour intervals whenever you can for three days before and three days after your surgery. They reduce pain and speed up healing. If you can find a formula with both ingredients in it, that should work well, also.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand