As anyone older than 50 can attest, healthy joints won't last forever. We all eventually experience the normal aches, pains and stiffness that result from an active life.
Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to help keep your healthy joints strong and supple as you age.
Rosita’s Knee Joint Story
The program I recommend is one used by Dr. James Fox, a West Coast orthopedist who practices what I consider smart medicine. I first learned of Dr. Fox after the wife of a friend went to see him. Rosita is an ex-dancer who had been having problems with her right knee for years. She had already been on her own supplement and exercise program, but the problem persisted and she started having a hard time negotiating stairs. After looking at her MRI, Dr. Fox told Rosita that she couldn't be helped by arthroscopic surgery and, in fact, might be a candidate for a knee replacement.
Before going down that path, though, Dr. Fox asked Rosita to strengthen her legs by working with a physical therapist and doing aquatic exercises in a swimming pool three times a week for a month. Rosita did her month in the pool—walking forward, backward and sideways, and doing assorted leg lifts and squats with the guidance of a physical therapist. When she returned to Dr. Fox, her knee joint felt much better and more stable.
Dr. Fox told Rosita to continue the aquatic therapy exercises for another month. After the second month, Rosita said her knee joint felt even better. He advised her to continue the water therapy indefinitely, and he gave her additional exercises to do out of the water. I'm happy to say that Rosita continues to make progress and is no longer a candidate for knee replacement surgery!
Rosita is a great example of how exercise—specifically those that strengthen the muscles around problem joints—can be a boon to anyone whose joints aren't what they used to be. Strengthening the muscles around the knee joint helps improve balance and movement, and thereby can help minimize the amount of additional wear and tear the knee joint suffers.
Trainers and Therapists Can Help Build Healthy Joints
As I mentioned, Rosita worked with a physical therapist to strengthen her legs. Your doctor may be a good source of referrals for qualified physical therapists. Another option is to hire a personal trainer who can show you not only how to exercise, but also how to effectively relax (via massage or meditation)—and serve as an overall health guide. Check with a nearby spa or sports medicine specialist for a personal trainer in your area, or contact the American College of Sports Medicine.
Sometimes a trainer ends up being a cheerleader instead of a guide. When that's the case, you need to apply the brakes and remember you don't have a 20-year-old body anymore. I had a young trainer a few years ago and, with all the hip pain I had at the time, I just couldn't keep up with him. I dropped him. Now I have a trainer who is very considerate about my older joints and tendons. (When choosing a trainer, you may want to ask candidates how many clients they've worked with in your age group and/or with your condition—it will give you an idea of how “in tune” they will be with your needs.)
I personally like trainers who have relationships with physical therapists because there are times when you may strain a muscle and need advice that a physical therapist can give you. I found my personal trainer by word of mouth—from one of my fishing buddies. She (my trainer, that is) turned out to have a lot of knowledge about stretching, which is important to me. She also knows physical therapists, and she even wanted to teach me about supplements. That's the kind of whole package I like.
Orthopedists Who Practice Smart Medicine
Unfortunately, I don't yet know of a lot of orthopedists like Dr. Fox who forego the obvious conventional route in favor of having their patients use supplements and exercises to help support healthy joints and avoid surgery. I do, though, know that the following three orthopedists use nutritional and alternative medicine techniques in their orthopedic practice.
Richard Diana, M.D.
2408 Whitney Ave.
Hamden, CT 06518
Karl Epstein, M.D.
19231 Victory Blvd. Suite 155
Reseda, CA 91335
James M. Fox, M.D. (two locations)
22633 Ventura Blvd.
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
8670 Wilshire Blvd. #203
Beverly Hills, CA 90211