Saturday, December 14, 2013

Time to Hit the Bottle to Banish Knee Pain?

Okay, this week we go a bit tongue in cheek. For all you boozehounds out there, I got this comment recently:
I don't mean for this as a cure of PFPS (obviously) but has anyone else noticed a remarkable reduction of symptoms after consuming (small/moderate) amounts of alcohol. The effect seems to last for at least a day after consumption!
This comment brought to you by the Whiskey Distillers of America!

Seriously, is there any reason for alcohol to have such a happy effect on someone’s grumbling knee tissues? I think there are in fact two good reasons (though I’m doubtful either would last for an entire day after one stops imbibing -- so it’s possible that there’s something completely unrelated going on with this guy).

For one, alcohol dulls all sensations. Sometimes drunk people walk into walls and hardly feel the impact. Now, the comment made reference to “small/moderate amounts of alcohol” -- so that’s not getting blotto clearly -- but the nerve-deadening effect of alcohol would just be played out on a smaller scale.

Now, that’s the more obvious reason -- which I’m sure the commenter has already taken into account. The not-so-obvious reason is the one I find more interesting.

Alcohol relaxes you. In doing so, it relaxes muscles. And some of those looser muscles naturally belong to your upper legs.

Why does that matter? Knee pain while seated (the so-called “moviegoer’s sign”) is a hallmark symptom of patellofemoral pain syndrome. What’s happening typically is the cartilage in your knee joint isn’t strong enough to handle the additional force that comes with bent-leg sitting. You wouldn’t think merely sitting is that physically stressful. But it’s enough to send weak knees over the edge.

If you want to increase that pain, just tighten those thigh muscles -- through stress or nervousness or whatever -- and that will pull your kneecap a tad closer to your underlying femur, which should increase your discomfort. However, if you relax, by having a drink (or two or three), the opposite should occur: a lessening of symptoms.

I think this is the same reason that stretching feels good. You loosen muscles and take pressure off that sensitive junction where kneecap-cartilage-femur meet.

In my opinion, neither stretching nor having several Corona Lights is really a lasting solution for knee pain. But might they be good for temporary relief? Could be.


  1. I feel worse after I drink ...probably because every-day I feel like I have a's just focused on my knees!

    I try not to drink or go out because I will be more active, won't feel the pain but will then feel it in the morning.

    Interesting post, thanks :)

  2. Thanks SO MUCH for your blog!!! Have found it recently since I finally got an MRI for seven years of nagging pain and overall inertia, initiated during accelerated marathon training. Now even my hips and lower back have been flaring up intermittently over the past two years, which finally scared me enough to see a specialist. Doc said there was nothing wrong but maybe soft cartilage and maybe a shallow patellar groove and overall loose joints--otherwise great knee! No explanation then for the pain, and no diagnosis, only a prescription to get PT to strengthen my quads! Looked up soft cartilage and found Saving My Knees that same day. Hooray, I'm not alone!!

    I must say that I dance whenever I can for exercise and for the love of music, and I often have a drink in hand when I'm out! But as another music-loving friend put it: dancing is good for you, it shakes out your joints. A valid hypothesis, as my joints feel fine during and after (unlike the ever-present pain they feel from hours at a desk each workday). It's the only exercise I get. Other than that I've become a depressed lump and look forward to employing both yours and Dr. Kelsey's techniques to get back to my old hiking biking self.

    Besides your site, the only other ray of hope I've had is the news of Kobe Bryant's Regenokine/Orthokine treatments in Germany. Yet it hasn't seemed to make the news other than the sports page discussing the effects of his knee issues on the court, and arguments about any similarities to doping. Who cares, if it is a viable treatment?! It's cost-prohibitive and not FDA-approved yet, but hopefully both issues are resolved rapidly, as it really does seem to be a ridiculously simple outpatient procedure. If you have already commented on this, please let me know which post to read, I'd love to know your thoughts! When I read about it last year, my first thought was, give it to me!! :)


    1. I made perfunctory mention of Kobe and a few other surgical treatments here:

      My best advice if you want to know more: go to a site like Knee Guru and look for (or start) a thread on the surgery. That's a big community, and many people there will have direct experience, or an opinion at least.

      I'm skeptical about surgery. But still, it may work well for certain people, with certain conditions. Good luck!

    2. Here is my story(regarding Orthokine - Kobe Bryant treatment):

      My name is Goran. I'm 42 years old. I live in Croatia, Europe.
      I apologize in advance for my bad English.
      For some time I have problems with my knees that do not allow me to live a normal life.
      Diagnosis chondromalacia patella .

      I did treatments of physical therapy ( ozone , magnet , ultrasound , exercise ), but with no particular improvement of the knees.
      In the meantime, I spent a lot of money best orthopedists and physiatrists in Croatia . Some say it will pass, some it won’t. Some recommend hyaluronic acid , another MBST ( treatment of cartilage by magnetic resonance - MBST® - Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Therapy, also started for the first time in Germany ) and Orthokin therapy (Globally known as a “Kobe Bryant treatment”), some of them to carry on with quadriceps exercises.
      But they all agree that the operation does not help a lot if the patella is tracking correctly (in the middle), which is my case.
      I finally came across one of the best orthopedist in Croatia who himself suffer from 4th degree chondromalacia patella, and he also recommended Orthokin therapy(which he also tried after the arthroscopy for micro fractures in subchondral bone and he sad that therapy did help him) and MBST therapy.
      Since he’s fighting chondromalacia for whole life he says that it comes and goes in waves of year or two. He generally had more pain in winter, less in summer when swimming in see etc.
      I also found on the internet very few cases of complete healing or regeneration of cartilage. In the meanwhile, I take diet supplements all the time. Fish oil and tablets or powders with glucosamine ... but it does not help ...

      As described conventional methods of treatment have not produced results , I decided to apply Orthokin therapy for both knees.
      The day after the first injection constant pain in my right knee ( scratching , tension ) has begun to weaken. At the time of writing this post ( three days after the second injection ) pain in the right knee is lower by about 70 % , and I could finally start doing the most normal things like watching television, reading newspapers etc. ..
      My impression is that nothing can regenerate damaged cartilage. Impression of pain is individual and subjective and does not depend or partially depend on the degree of cartilage damage.
      Summary is that Orthokin definitely works because it will significantly reduce the pain with chondromalacia patella . Injection does not hurt nor does it have side effects except for a tiny sting that heals in a few days . Whether this will rebuild cartilage , we'll see . I think there are are poor chances for that. But, less pain means more movement, and more movement means faster healing.
      My plan is also to try MBST treatments and with that, all the possibilities, of so called "modern" medicine, which does not seem to make progress towards complete cartilage restoration method are exhausted.

      REFRESH: 6 days after the third injection in both right knee is still 10 % better , even with the left I feel a lot less pain when lifting from a chair and walk down the stairs.

      REFRESH 2: After 5th and last injection I still feel the pain but knees are much better now.

  3. P.S. I also love that you used the term "moviegoer's sign," as I just watched Hobbit 2, and could barely stand after, it was so long! I love the theater but every single time all I can do is wish for a higher seat. Maybe should just be sure to have a drink before each movie! ;)


  4. I think this is an interesting observation and one I have also considered. Just like a massage relaxes you, so does alcohol, and a relaxed nervous system and body would naturally heal quicker due to the body not focusing on pumping increased amount of cortisol and adrenaline out, but focusing on the issue in hand - the knees.! Bit like trying to juggle 5 eggs and being no good, or just focussing on the 1 and doing a better job.
    Ultimately for me, rest is the key to healing my knee problems, that's when I see improvement.