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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Heitzmann, MSPT,

Taking Care of your Knees in 2019

Winter is here, and I know many of us take this time to “fix” all the aches and pains we have been accumulating over the busy summer, fall and holiday seasons. I for one have a long list this year!

Our knees take a big hit as we are running full speed ahead through our busy lives. I am dedicating this month to learning, sharing, and improving the health of my knees (and yours!), with the goal of remaining super active and enjoying life to the fullest for many years to come. Prevention and Preservation are key!

I will start with my own personal knee story, which eventually led to my career choice in physical therapy. My first knee injury occurred when I was only 15 years old. Can you possibly guess how it happened? Well,……see,…..I was playing high school soccer (yes, that sport that would later become my “home away from home” with my own children for those of you who know me). On that day, many years ago, I met my fate with a bigger, more seasoned senior high school soccer defender. It did not end well for me, and I landed in the OR 10 days later for reconstruction of my medial collateral ligament. I spent 6 weeks in a full leg cast, hobbling around on crutches fo 7+ weeks. That was truly the beginning of my journey to learning and appreciating what rehabilitation was all about. I was blessed to have an excellent surgeon, and an even better physical therapist (My Dad!) Needless to say, I had a full recovery, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, the seed had been planted for my future career. I was so happy to be back to competing in high school and college sports, despite being told by many that “my knee would never be the same”. Fortunately, I was young and didn’t listen, and I recovered 100%.

Since then I have dedicated my career to learning, improving, and teaching others to recover from injuries, and I have loved every minute of it.

I have been blessed with an extremely healthy left knee since then. However, I have certainly had minor setbacks along the way, which I have had to address. About 10 years ago I received a cortisone injection in my left knee due to 6 months of random pain that would not resolve. Approximately three years ago I suffered a traumatizing right knee meniscus tear. I underwent arthroscopy, which revealed not only a meniscus tear, but two areas of pre arthritis which needed to be cleaned up, a plica which was removed, and a lot of general wear and tear, ugh!! Welcome to the fifth decade I told myself! Recovery was slower than I wanted, but after about 12 weeks of rest, recovery, physical therapy, and education, I can now say I am 100%, thankfully!!

Over the past few years I have made adjustments in my goals, priorities, and workout routines as I now understand that OA (osteoarthritis) is inevitable. However, I intend to manage it and keep it from slowing me down! I am much more focused on quality and consistency vs intensity of exercise, which was NOT my mindset 10 years ago. Equally as important, I no longer simply ignore and push through nagging pain. But that’s all ok, I’m thankful to have the knowledge I do, and I am eager to share it all with you.

For the month of January, my focus is understanding knee problems, particularly osteoarthritis, and how we can best maintain good health and activity.

Please enjoy the slideshow below which depicts the most common knee injuries, and an excellent description of Osteoarthritis (OA) and its impact on our overall health (Provided by Journal of Sports Orthopaedic Physical Therapy)

Hope you enjoy and come away with a few good nuggets of information for your healthy knees!

“Osteoarthritis (OA) of the hip and knee is among the leading causes of global disability, highlighting the need for early, targeted, and effective treatment. The benefits of exercise therapy in people with hip and knee OA are substantial and supported by high-quality evidence, underlining that it should be part of first-line treatment in clinical practice. Furthermore, unlike other treatments for OA, such as analgesia and surgery, exercise therapy is not associated with risk of serious harm. Helping people with OA become more physically active, along with structured exercise therapy targeting symptoms and impairments, is crucial, considering that the majority of people with hip and knee OA do not meet physical activity recommendations. Osteoarthritis is associated with a range of chronic comorbidities, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dementia, all of which are associated with chronic low-grade inflammation. Physical activity and exercise therapy not only improve symptoms and impairments of OA, but are also effective in preventing at least 35 chronic conditions and treating at least 26 chronic conditions, with one of the potential working mechanisms being exercise-induced anti-inflammatory effects. Patient education may be crucial to ensure long-term adherence and sustained positive effects on symptoms, impairments, physical activity levels, and comorbidities.” J Orthop Sports Phys Therapy

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