Snap, Crackle and Pop Goes My Knee

Statistics show that one out of every three U.S. adults will experience some form of osteoarthritis, otherwise known as degenerative joint disease, as they grow older. Yay, I have officially become a statistic!  This chronic disease causes deterioration of the joint cartilage which is the protective cushioning between the bones.  As the cartilage wears away, the bones will eventually grind against each other, sometimes making a creaky, crackly sound.  This leads to pain, swelling, and decreased range of motion which usually comes to your attention one day as you realize that you are moving like an old person. Common areas affected are the hips, knees, neck, low back and hands. 

Why does our cartilage defy us? In most cases it’s because we have abused it. But it hasn’t been blatant abuse like “Hey I think today is a good day to destroy my knee.” It manifests itself in a more subtle way as in “Gee I used to be able to <fill in the blank> without feeling so sore, gaining a pound, collapsing on the floor, etc. etc.   While some of these causes are within our control, others are more difficult to avoid. For example, because we use our hands for almost everything that we do, including all the techie gadgets we’ve become dependent on, osteoarthritis affecting the finger and wrist joints is very common.  

While medications have been the traditional treatment, I am hearing more and more from clients who want other options.  As a result, The Arthritis Foundation reports that an increasing number of doctors are recommending massage and heat-based therapies to their patients for relief of the pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis.

Even if you have never had a massage, you have most likely rubbed a sore muscle or joint yourself and experienced the “ahhh that feels good” sensation. You may have even used a heat pack or a hot shower to relieve a stiff neck.  So you know first hand that massage and heat, especially when combined, can make you feel way better.

My favorite go to when my hands are stiff and sore is a nice hand massage, courtesy of one of my lovely colleagues, and a dip in the paraffin wax bath. Paraffin wax is highly effective in transferring heat to the skin and deep into the joints. Because heat expands the blood vessels, it increases circulation and reduces pain all while giving you a nice side benefit of soft smooth skin.

Unfortunately we can’t undo the damage already done to our joints in our younger “I’m invincible” years but we can do some damage control to give our abused bodies a better shot at staying mobile well into our golden years.

By: Lynne Gavrilis