To people who know me, it's no secret that I have arthritis in my knees and it gives me screaming fits. I went to see my orthopedist on the 14th for my yearly SynVisc shot (it lubricates the cartilage and is supposed to slow down the wear and tear). He ordered new x-rays of my knees and I got to see them - the right one is much worse than the left one, which I knew, it's the one that hurts and swells when I have to walk or stand.
I was diagnosed with arthritis in that right knee when I was 34, after I fell on it and had to have it drained because it swelled so badly (they drained almost a cup of fluid/blood out of it). In the ensuing 24 years, I've been prescribed ibuprofen, Voltaren, Naproxen, and now Celebrex. At no time have any of the doctors I've seen ever suggested physical therapy or exercises to strengthen the muscles that support my knees. They have, however, every one of them suggested weight loss. And before I found FA, I thought they might be right, and I tried their diets (and we all know where that leads, right?). I even had a nurse practitioner who suggested WLS because (according to her) no surgeon would replace my knees at my then-weight of 350 lbs (and I believed her, did it, lost weight, gained it back plus some more, and got some lovely complications to boot).
Then I realized dieting/WLS wasn't the answer, was compounding the issues with my health, and started looking for different answers. I found fat acceptance, then I found HAES, and I started reading (what else do bookworms do when they find a subject that interests them and is going to have a huge impact on their life?).
The epiphany part of this whole story comes in when my orthopedist told me that every pound a person weighs puts 7 pounds of pressure on their knees, and that losing weight would help my knees. I told him I'd already dieted my way up to where I am now, and had WLS and "see how successful that was?" I'm thinking I have to be proactive here, he's not going to come up with any suggestions to help me, so I have to think of something, so I asked him "What about exercises to strengthen the muscles that support my knees? Would those help? Would that delay having to have my knees replaced?" Can you believe it? He actually said that it probably would, and he would write me an order for physical therapy so they could show me what exercises to do and how to do them.
Now, I've been seeing him for the last 4 years, why couldn't he have suggested this 4 years ago? That's 4 years I've not been working on making my muscles stronger, and it's 4 years that my knees have been getting worse - all because the only thing he could recommend was weight loss.
I went to physical therapy on Friday, talked to the therapist, she looked at my x-rays (I also have some bone spurs in there, no wonder my knee hurts). She gave me a list of 4 exercises to do, showed me how to do them correctly, and I have to go back in 2 weeks to check on my progress and see if we need to add more. I also found out that I over-extend my knees when I straighten them - a result of the degeneration from arthritis.
I didn't know how badly out of shape the muscles in my right leg were until I started doing these exercises - my left leg is fine, doesn't hurt when I'm done. But my right leg is another story, and I'm only doing 1 set of 5 reps right now (twice a day). As soon as the pain decreases, I'll increase to 2 sets twice a day, then I'll go to 2 sets of 10 reps twice a day.
Now, I hate exercise, I have to put that out there. I've started and stopped more exercise plans than I want to count, but every one of those plans was designed primarily for weight loss and if I didn't lose weight while doing it, well, that wasn't being successful. So these exercises aren't designed with weight loss in mind - strength is the goal, less pain is the goal - those are goals that are definitely more achievable than weight loss. That's something that should have been given to me 24 years ago, when I was first told I had arthritis in my knees - strengthen the muscles supporting the knees, and there will be less wear and tear, less pain, less need for medication. Why aren't doctors telling this to fat people? Why do thin people with arthritis get physical therapy and all kinds of other advice, but fat people with arthritis get told "Lose weight, it's all we can do."?