Osteoarthritis: Just Another Challenge!

Osteoarthritis: Just Another Challenge!

Welcome to the Osteoarthritis:  Just Another Challenge blog.  I’m Rich.  You will meet Sue, Aaron and Nels who are part of the team.  We hope that others may benefit from reading about what has transpired in the last four years of Rich’s life.   So we write this blog.

About a year ago, my wife Sue and I attended a lecture on osteoarthritis presented by Dr. Nels Carlson of the OHSU Spine Center.   Dr. Carlson said to get off my sorry butt and move.  Become strong and flexible.  (My apologies to Dr. Carlson for paraphrasing.)   He said it was okay to do those things because hurt does not equal harm.  Discomfort from exercising is okay.  It will not cause additional damage to your body.  Dr. Carlson also indicated that surgery should only be considered in the event of functional impairment.  By the way, this is not a medical advice column.  Undertake physical activities at your own risk.  I’m not authorized to speak for Dr. Carlson, or Beyond The Clinic.  But Dr. Carlson’s lecture changed my life!  I started exercising and quit having surgeries.  Prior to his talk, I had seven neck and lower back surgeries in four years.  When I wasn’t having surgery, I was recovering from them.  From 2008 to 2010, I read hundreds of books because that was all I did.  No exercise.  No trips.  No fun.  My life was circling the drain.  Since then I have increased my activity, even hiking and camping in Glacier National Park.

This is Aaron, Rich’s physical therapist.  I work for Beyond The Clinic.  We do physical therapy house calls.  I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with Rich for the past two years.  He is a great inspiration to anyone who desires to overcome pain. 

Pain is a powerful motivator to do or not do something.  Most often it is a motivator to take pain medicines and to avoid the activities that “hurt”.  Current research is taking a look at pain from an objective standpoint.  What we are learning is that your pain is often overrated.  The important thing to determine is whether or not the pain means you are doing damage or not.  Nels Carlson, M.D. at OHSU is very good at making this determination.  Once it is determined that the pain you experience is not doing further damage, it is important to find objective deficits regarding the injured or painful parts of your body.  Usually the deficits are a combination of weakness and tightness.  A physical therapist can help you determine what things are unusually tight and inflexible, or what is abnormally weak and unsupportive.  The trick is simple:  stretch what is tight and strengthen what is weak.  If you can accomplish this, function goes up and pain often goes down.  If you don’t believe me, talk to Rich Kennedy.  There is a great quote from Dr. Waddell one of the pioneers in treating back pain with exercise, “a strong and flexible back will always feel and function better than a stiff and weak back”.   Talk to your physician and your physical therapist to help you overcome your pain and get back to what you enjoy doing.

During the next year, Rich and I will blog about the process that brought him from a depressed and immobile state on the couch filled with pain medicines and looming surgeries, to hiking and camping in Glacier National Park with his wife and more.  If you are like Rich, and want to turn your life around to get back to the things you love to do, stay tuned to this inspiring blog.