From time to time, I like to talk to the impatient first-time visitor to this blog, who’s thinking, “Okay, you saved your knees. Great. So just cut to the chase and tell me: What did you do?”
Below, I’m going to make another attempt to answer that, using a different approach: a make-believe dialogue between me and a slightly grumpy reader who has just read my book.
Because, unfortunately, a number of people have finished it without being able to figure out how I got better. I’ll take the blame for my unclear writing (but, believe me, I wasn’t trying to be mysterious).
Okay, here’s the imaginary exchange:
Reader: Okay, your frustrations with doctors and physical therapists in the book were interesting. But I reached the end and felt kind of cheated. Exactly how did you beat your knee pain? There aren’t a lot of details on what you did.
Me: Sorry! I thought I made clear what I did. But maybe not. Part of the problem, it wasn’t too exciting.
Reader: So what did you do?
Me: Basically, I walked a lot.
Reader: That’s it? Jeez, that’s a letdown. So I just need to go out and walk a lot and my knees will get better?
Me: Nope. Part of my message is that what worked for me may not work for you. But it is important to find a high-repetition, joint-friendly activity that your knees like. For me that was walking.
Reader: I don’t mean to be captious, but you could’ve written a much shorter book saying that.
Me: True, but the message isn’t simply to walk a lot. As I recount in the book, at first I tried walking a lot when I was allowed to work half-time in Hong Kong. And it didn’t help. My knees got worse!
Reader: Because you walked too much.
Me: Right. So there’s a delicate balance. That’s part of what makes healing so tricky. Especially if your knees are really bad, because the balance is even more delicate, and you can’t even do the ordinary things (like walking up a couple of flights of stairs) that most of us take for granted, without suffering pain and setbacks.
Reader: But again, your secret to how you saved your knees is by walking a lot.
Me: Well, yes and no. If that was my entire experience -- I had bad knees, I decided I would walk a lot, and my knees got better -- I never would have bothered writing a book. I also spent a lot of time studying how knees worked and why the traditional methods to treat knee pain failed me (and probably fail many others). That’s an important part of the story.
Reader: Okay, but I’m interested in solutions for my bad knees. And you’re saying that if my knees like walking, I can go out and walk a lot and my knees will improve.
Me: Again, not quite. You have to walk the right amount -- not too much, not too little. And, periodically, you have to increase that amount of activity -- you have to push your knees harder -- and gradually strengthen them so the joints can tolerate more.
Reader: And that’s it?
Me: Actually, at some point, you’ll be able to graduate to “sweating” activity -- such as walking uphill, hard. This will be a great advance and will hasten the healing of the soft tissues in your joints -- at least that was my experience.
Reader: But again, that’s all you did -- walking?
Me: There were other exercises, more typical of “muscle strengthening”. But honestly, they constituted a small part of my program, and I don’t think they did much for my knees, so I didn’t spend time in the book on them.
Reader: Were there other things that you think were important?
Me: I also consumed high-protein drinks, to make sure that my injured tissues had the basic ingredients they needed to mend. I made sure I got enough sleep. And I learned to listen to my knees, on a really deep level.
Reader: Okay then. So what should I do?
Me: I don’t like giving advice. But I’d look for a good physical therapist who believes the right things about healing bad joints (that they indeed can heal, and that patients should be doing exercises that are more joint focused, as opposed to muscle focused). Then, from that, I think good things will follow. Good luck!