I’ve always considered myself an active person, whether it was running, playing tennis, or enjoying time with my family, I love to move. All of these activities require using my knees, one of the most integral body parts we use in our daily life. But when you suffer from chronic knee pain like I did, everyday life becomes more challenging and the pain can force you to give up the things you love doing.
Before I had bilateral knee replacements, I struggled with joint pain every day for almost three decades. Maybe I’m just a slow learner, but I know I’m not alone. Experts say many people who have chronic knee pain wait anywhere from seven to 11 years before getting help.[i] Why? Well, I can tell you from first-hand experience it’s because many of us believe that as we age, knee pain is normal. Sometimes, we go so far as to deny that the pain is slowing us down.
My knee pain was interfering with my sleep, as well as keeping me from enjoying the active lifestyle I loved. Like I said, I’m a tennis player. But because of constant knee pain, I was forced to decrease the intensity, frequency and duration of the sport I Ioved. Moreover, the pain took up most of my energy and left me with almost no time for my family, work and play time.
You might not know it now, but ignorance is not bliss and ignoring knee pain can lead to bigger problems down the road. In many cases, like mine, knee pain can be one of the first indicators of osteoarthritis (OA) and if left untreated or ignored, OA can get even worse.[ii] Here’s the thing though: while many people may have heard of OA, some people still aren’t sure what it really is. Simply put, OA occurs when the normal smooth joint surfaces are worn away. Over time, this may result in bone-on-bone contact, pain and stiffness. In the U.S., OA is a major cause of crippling knee pain, affecting nearly 27 million Americans.[iii]
That’s why I’ve teamed-up with DePuy Synthes Companies to launch the educational initiative, “Knees Through the Years,” which helps individuals understand how they can keep their knees healthy at any age. It also speaks to the five signs of knee pain that could signal it might be time to see a knee specialist to discuss treatment options. At one time or another before my knee replacements I experienced all of these including knee pain that interfered with my sleep, occurred one or more days per week, made it difficult to walk more than a block, interfered with being active, and pain medication that no longer stopped my knee pain.
I encourage you to learn from my experience and talk with your doctor if you experience chronic knee pain or any of the five signs on a consistent basis. The good news is there are many things you can do to keep your knees healthy at any age including managing your weight, exercising, and avoiding injuries or getting them treated. There are also several treatment options ranging from stretching and strengthening exercises, injections to help reduce pain, or knee replacement surgery. You and your doctor can determine what treatment plan is best for you; for me, after talking to my doctor, we decided surgery was my best option. After surgery I was diligent about doing physical therapy and rehabilitation. I knew I needed to fully commit to doing my exercises in order to set myself up for success down the road.
Ninety days after my surgery, I was back on the court playing tennis and in the backyard chasing around my 6-year-old son – my physical, emotional and mental state were back to where I wanted them to be. If knee pain is a part of your life, I encourage you to visit allaboutkneepain.com to learn more about how you can stop suffering and start enjoying a more active life. You can learn about treatment options and find a physician near you who specializes in treating knee pain.
As someone who has been there and is now in a better place with my knees, I hope you understand you don’t have to live in pain. Talk with a specialist to help develop a treatment plan that is right for you.
© DePuy Synthes Companies 2015. All rights reserved.
1 DePuy Hip: A&U/Segmentation. Final Report January 2008. Data on file.
2 Fortin PR, Penrod JR, Clarke AE, et al. Timing of Total Joint Replacement Affects Clinical Outcomes Among Patients With Osteoarthritis of the Hip or Knee. Arthritis & Rheumatism. 2002;46(12):3327-3330.
3 Arthritis Foundation. What is Osteoarthritis? http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/osteoarthritis/what-is-osteoarthritis.php. Accessed May 8, 2015.
Jack Groppel, Ph.D. Exercise Physiology is an internationally recognized authority and pioneer in the science of human performance, Co-Chair of the newly formed Global Alliance for Health & Performance, and an expert in fitness and nutrition. Jack is the co-founder of the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute (HPI). DePuy Synthes Companies and HPI are part of the same family of companies.
Jack served as an Adjunct Professor of Management at the J.L. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University for several years and continues to instruct courses at the University in a supplementary role. Jack is the Co-Chair of the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) Health & Performance Study Committee as well as the National Spokesperson for the CEO Pledge of the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity.
Jack authored The Corporate Athlete book on achieving the pinnacle of corporate performance and co-authored The Corporate Athlete Advantage. He developed the Corporate Athlete® concept for his training program while serving as an associate professor of kinesiology and bioengineering at the University of Illinois, helping both business executives and athletes increase performance levels.