Treating an Arthritic Knee

I admit it. I am aging. I would like to say and gracefully so, but there are those that would disagree.

I’ve been active my whole life: played tennis, swam, rode horses, rode bikes, and the clincher – ran for over 40 years – until I couldn’t. That was a major bummer – not being able to run. But ever Pollyanna, I downgraded to fast walking – until I couldn’t. The solution? Slow the pace. This I did, despite ouches and grunts that occurred in rhythmic harmony. Thus are the musical notes of arthritis.

To quell my aches, I’ve tried a number of things including physical therapy, arthroscopic surgery, cortisone shots and gel shots. Nothing worked. I continued to toddle and limp along.

Enter my volunteer work at the animal shelter where I walk up to 10 strong dogs twice a week. We’re talking PAIN!! However, nothing was going to stop me from this passion it took me a lifetime to find.

I had a nice chat with my orthopedic doctor who suggested this relatively new procedure, Coolief. Here’s what she told me:

It’s simple: Radiofrequency energy targets the nerves in the knee area that send pain signals to the brain and destroys them so voila, no pain! It’s not quite that simple, so I will leave the nitty-gritty detail to the pros

As far as the experience – it is not pleasant. In fact, it is very unpleasant. In sum, four needles are inserted into your knee and adjusted so they target the correct nerves. This was excruciating, “No pain, no gain,” the nurse said. This was something I did not want to hear at the time. Once the needles were in and positioned, the rest wasn’t so bad. In fact, the warmth of the penetrating energy was soothing.

Before the docs can perform the “real” procedure, they have to determine if you are a viable candidate, so they do a “pre-procedure” Again, four needles are inserted into the area around your knee only this time lidocaine is inserted into your knee through them. When the procedure is over, you are instructed to go home and chart your pain level for the next four hours. If you do not have pain then you can be promoted to Phase 2.

There are no real after-effects of either procedure, so after the “real” one, I was fine after an afternoon of resting. I was then anxious to see how my modified knee would feel.

One of the issues I had at the shelter was getting the dogs out of their kennels where you have to kneel on one knee (my bad one) while holding the other knee against the kennel door to keep the dog from barging on out. This procedure had been a killer. (Notice past tense). Four days after the procedure was my first walking shift. I wanted to jump for joy at how painless it was!! Walking the dogs was also exciting because I could trot along with the more energetic dogs, also with no pain.  

The sad thing is that this fix is not permanent. The average time before symptoms return is 2 years. What then? A repeat of the procedure or eventually, a knee replacement. I am not at all thrilled about a knee replacement and what all that means in recuperation so I’ll probably hang out with Coolief for a bit, even if it does involve sticking needles in my knee

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