If you suffer from knee pain, did you know you’re far more likely to suffer from depression, heart problems, and memory loss? Traditional Chinese Medicine has known this for centuries, as the knees are related to the kidneys, the brain, and the memory.
But knee pain also makes it very hard to do the things you want to do. And it makes exercise very difficult. The resulting health problems can be life threatening. So it’s vital you take steps today to fix your knee pain. Here’s how natural medicine helped one of my patients overcome her knee pain.
Joan was visibly upset with me. All I had done was tell her that exercise was vital to her heart health. Her diet had improved, but she hadn’t even gone for a walk in the past two weeks. “What was going on?” I asked.
Tears appeared in the corner of her eyes. “I can’t,” she said. “My knees are so painful that at times it’s difficult to walk around my apartment, much less go for a brisk walk like you suggested. I heard what you said at our last appointment, but my arthritis won’t let me do what I need to do.”
Not only was Joan feeling pain in her knees, she was beginning to suffer from depression because she couldn’t do what she wanted to do.
Depression Because of Knee Pain Is a Growing Problem
Joan isn’t alone. In the U.S. about 13% of women and 10% of men ages 60 and up suffer from knee pain from osteoarthritis. In Japan, this number is much higher. In fact, over half (55%) of people over the age of 40 suffer from this form of knee pain. While this is certainly a large problem for the country, it has provided a rich pool of participants for research studies on the condition. And recently, a Japanese research team has been able to link knee pain from osteoarthritis to depression.
For a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the researchers looked at data from 573 people aged 65 and up who were participating in the Kurabuchi Study, a long-term study of older adults in central Japan. The researchers noticed an interesting trend in the data. At the beginning of the study, none of the participants were suffering from depression, but by two years into the study, nearly 12% had developed depressive symptoms.
The researchers wondered if this increase in depressive symptoms might be linked to the participants’ knee pain. They asked them a number of questions about when they experienced pain and sought to correlate that information with symptoms of depression. Sure enough, they found that the participants who were suffering from knee pain while trying to sleep, put on socks, or get in and out of a car were more likely to report depressive symptoms.
The researchers believe that being aware of the possible connection between knee pain and depression can help doctors and patients identify depression more quickly and begin treatment early. If you’ve been suffering from knee pain for some time, you should be aware of your increased risk for depression.
Of course, the obvious solution if your knee pain is causing you to become depressed is to treat the knee pain. Joan knew that the arthritis pain in her knees was coming from inflammation. Most people just take NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or natural anti-inflammatory products, such as turmeric. But she knew that just reducing inflammation wasn’t going to lead to the solution she needed. It wouldn’t address the cause of her knee pain. Before we could find a solution, we needed to identify its cause.
The Right Shoes Are Not Walking Shoes
One important consideration is the load on your knees when you’re walking. A higher-than-normal load is a sign of the severity of arthritis as well as its progression. Shoes designed for stability and comfort – flat walking shoes – are, surprisingly, not the answer. They can increase the load on your knees by as much as 15%.
Choose flexibility over stability. The best shoes for your arthritic knees are flat shoes with flexible soles. Flexibility is the key. A recent study in Arthritis Care & Research said walking barefoot or wearing flip-flops puts less stress on the knees than walking shoes!
I say, go barefoot in your home when you can. Flip-flops might make you flip and flop and fall. You might also look into H-Street shoes by Puma. They have flexible soles, which will reduce the load on your knees.
Are Your Legs the Same Length?
Most people have a slight inequality in leg length. This can cause knee pain. Even the difference of one centimeter can affect pain and swelling in the knee on the shorter leg.
If you have arthritis in just one knee, I suggest you see a podiatrist, chiropractor, or osteopath who’s familiar with orthotics (shoe inserts) and heel lifts. A professional will be able to measure and balance your leg length with more accuracy than you can.
Strengthen Your “Frailty” Muscles
Weak quadriceps, the muscles in your upper front thigh, can be a sign of frailty. You use them when you get up from sitting in a chair. If you can’t pull yourself up out of a chair several times in a row without using your hands, you may be getting frail.
In addition, weak quads contribute to painful knee joints. These muscles help keep your patella (knee cap) from moving from side-to-side and tracking abnormally when you walk (which results in inflammation). Stronger quads also protect against cartilage loss behind your kneecaps.
You can strengthen your quads by sitting in a chair and extending your legs out in front of you. Then raise and lower your legs slowly. There are machines in gyms that strengthen the quadriceps muscles, but don’t use them. It’s easy to put too much stress on your knees with machines and cause damage. So ask your doctor, or a physical therapist, for other exercises that are safe for you. Or practice sitting and standing without using your hands. You can treat your frailty and knee pain all at once.
The Vitamin That Helps Knee Pain
There’s also a vitamin that influences muscle and nerve function. If you don’t have enough of it – and most people don’t – it can contribute to knee pain and loss of function. It’s none other than vitamin D.
One study found that 47% of participants with increased knee pain and difficulty walking had vitamin D levels lower than 30 ng/ml. But here’s the problem. Most medical professionals consider levels over 30 ng/ml sufficient. However, the Vitamin D Council, which has done and supported a lot of research, says we should have 60-80 ng/ml. This means that in light of the most recent research, the number of people who are deficient in vitamin D is much greater than 47%.
If you have arthritis in your knees, get your vitamin D level tested with a simple blood test. Then, if you’re low, take 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 (the active form) each day until you reach 60 ng/ml or greater.
All “ITIS” Conditions Are Inflammatory
Inflammation is a symptom of an imbalance, not its cause. But while you search for the causes of your arthritis, anti-inflammatory drugs or herbs can be helpful. They reduce pain and deterioration.
One of the most potent natural anti-inflammatory formulas sold in the United States today is Reduloxin. You can begin by taking two capsules morning and night until you feel relief, and then just one capsule twice a day.
What about Joan? She changed her shoes to those with flexible soles, got fitted for a heel lift by her chiropractor, and began taking more vitamin D. Her pain has decreased and she is now able to add exercise to her weight-loss program. What’s more, she’s noticed her spirits are up and she’s feeling much better. You can see the same type of results with just a few simple and inexpensive changes. Please let me know how this works for you.