Joint Wear and Tear (Osteoarthritis)

JenAJenA Charter Member
edited August 2012 in General Discussion
Sooooo... anyone got any wonderful and uplifting stories about how they've been dealing with joint wear and tear (aka osteoarthritis)?

If wonderful and uplifting is too much of a stretch, I'll go for mildly positive stories. :-)


  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    I have a total hip replacement and a reconstructed ACL. I'm 32, so it's not a great trajectory. But I can't think of many better activities than swimming for gravity-challenged folks like us :)
  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    I'm pretty sure mine was *caused* by swimming, @evmo. :-)

    Met with the surgeon today and he was speaking about taking dead cadaver skin, washing out the DNA and using it to resurface the ball part of my humerouses. *shudder*
  • Doesn't sound very pleasant. Though I suppose that we are lucky to have the technology to do these sorts of things. Did the doctor say that you would be able to return to normal activity (or in the case of marathon swimming... continue your abnormal activity :D )
  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    @Jim_Pape: I did ask if it was OK to continue swimming, and he encouraged me. As I reflect on the moment, I may actually have used the words "grind my body into the ground"... LOL He was definitely pro-swimming, but not exactly endorsing of 18++ hours of nonstop swimming. I don't think he would endorse that for anyone though. :)

    Here's hoping for wonderful medical advances between now and when I need them. :)
  • jgaljgal Member
    i've had 4 ankle surgeries from my days as a pool swimmer, but turns out you don't really need ankles for open water, so woo hoo!

    my latest issue are my wrists. ever since my jersey swim, i have had awful arthritic pain that doesn't seem to go away even when i rest. (i rested >10 months with no swimming, and they still hurt!) your elbows sound insanely painful, so i hope the dr. can do something for you! ya poor pet!

  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    edited August 2012
    @jgal: Hey Julie. Shoulders, not elbows.... other end of the humorous? Maybe I explained it wrong. Anatomy was never my strong point. :)

    Because of shoulder drama, I actually haven't swum decently in three years. My goal for Summer 2013 is a 12.7km swim with one arm. (Ah, lefty!) :-)

    Sure, it feels a little Monty-Python-and-the-Black-Knight, but it's all about what feeds your soul... :)
  • jgaljgal Member
    ohhh ok. still, brutal! i broke my ulna at the humorous (i am not made for land) so was thinking elbow. i would say go for fella got knifed on the shoulder and he's much better now than pre-surgery.
  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    "my fella got knifed on the shoulder" Ah, you Texans! :D

  • Leonard_JansenLeonard_Jansen Charter Member
    jgal wrote:
    my fella got knifed on the shoulder and he's much better now than pre-surgery.

    I guess that will teach him not to mess with you again.

    jgal's homicidal tendencies aside... I have osteoarthritis in my right A/C joint (the joint ABOVE the shoulder) from repeated falls down mountainsides while cross country skiing. I went to several very high-powered docs about it and they agreed that I should NOT have surgery unless it was absolutely necessary. The opinion was that any surgery would potentially make the area weaker and make swimming long distances harder. They said to "Put up with the pain as long as you can." That was 12 years ago and I'm still at it, surgery-free, so they must have known what they were talking about.


    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    @Leonard_Jansen: thanks, that's very encouraging! :)
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    I've heard glucosamine-chondroitin is totally ineffective, but haven't really done the research. True or false?
  • I am really struggling with knee pain, under the knee cap on the inside. Too much breastroke. I have spent the past two weeks doing a dolphin kick but haven't swam for four days. The dull ache has subsided, but I reckon it will be more acute as I start proper leg kick again.

    Any bright ideas for strengthening my knees, stretches etc? Should I stop doing breastroke kicks? I have tried to do a much narrower kick but that doesn't stop the pain. Only the nearly three weeks of not kicking properly seems to be working.

    When not swimming, my knee aches after about 30 minutes driving. It is getting quite a worry.

    I will never get to France like this.
  • Jim_PapeJim_Pape Member
    edited August 2012
    Hello Haydn,
    I had something similar when I was running regularly and went to see an orthopedic doctor. He told me that the pain in the knee was due to a muscle imbalance in the quads. Some of the four muscles that make up the quad were stronger than the others and pulled the kneecap more to the left or right as it glides over the femur. Since the kneecap rides in a groove in the femur, this pull will cause it to rub to one side and hence the pain. The cure was to do a series of exercises to strengthen all of the quad muscles. Here is what he told me to do:

    Quad Strengthener

    Front Thigh: Lie on your back with an ankle weight on your right leg. Fully extend that leg and lock your knee. Keeping your foot relaxed and in a neutral position, lift your leg straight up toward your head as far as you can. Your goal should be to position your leg perpendicular to your body. Return to the starting position.

    Inner Thigh: Do the same exercise, but this time, turn out your right leg (toes pointing away from you) to target your inner thigh muscles.

    Outer Thigh: Repeat the same exercise again with your right leg turned in (toes pointing toward you) to isolate the muscles of your outer thigh.

    Though before you start this I would highly recommend that you pay a visit to a orthopedist to make sure that what you have is indeed a muscle imbalance. I'm not a doctor but after doing a lot of distance cycling, running and moderate distance swimming I've had my share of injuries and assorted pains. So this is what works for me when I get this sort of pain.

    Also, if the above is the case, you might want to consider adding an hour at the gym 1 or 2 days a week for general strengthening to minimize imbalances elsewhere. I'll usually get a session with a trainer when I change my training volume in one area (swimming now) and get a routine to target the areas that could become issues down the road.

  • That's a great answer. For the past few years I have been swimming mostly legs only, with fins, or full front crawl stroke. I use a raft which carries my supplies and when not towing it, I will simply lay on it and kick for hours watching the coast go by. I guess my leg muscles will be imbalanced as far as a breaststroke kick is concerned. So I guess the muscle attached to the inside of my thigh at the knee is weak or short, and is suffering with the sideways stress. How do I ensure I strengthen this area and not continue to strengthen the other muscles (assuming it is not a matter of strengthening the muscles equally, which would maintain the imbalance)?

    Will keeping doing the breastroke kick, weaken or gradually strengthen the knee?

    I haven't swam now for a week and the knee no longer hurts. But I have two weeks by a lake next week and planned to do a lot of miles. I am worried about more repetitive stress.
  • When I had the issue from running, the therapist had me do all of the exercises, they did not differentiate between muscles. Should you keep doing the breaststroke? The only person qualified to give you that answer I would think would be a doctor once they assess proper root cause.
  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member
    I had/have same prob with my right knee. "Strengthen quad muscles" is what they told me. What really worked for me, though, was to not do breast kick, and to climb stairs and walk a lot. With that Rx, I've managed to avoid knee surgery and still manage to swim lots.

    Just here troubling deaf heaven with my bootless cries...

  • I am in too deep with breastroke. I need to find a way through this.
  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    @evmo I looked into it for my arthritic dog, (no offence!) and found no real evidence for its efficacy (including talking to my vet who said it was waste of time & money). Here's a great quick-check tool for various supplements which can lead to further investigation.

  • MvGMvG Islamabad, PakistanCharter Member
    Here's a hopefully uplifting story: when preparing for the EC in 2011 my shoulder and neck joints felt so worn-out that I could only swim with painkillers. My neck was even making a creaking noise when I would turn it.
    But now, two years later and again in all-out training, I feel nothing at all, everything's going smooth, I haven't touched ibuprofen or paracetamol in months (except for the occasional hangover...). It's as if my joints have slowly caught up with the exercise I am subjecting them to. Is that possible?
    On the downside I have started having pain in my ankles this year. I hope they will catch up too...
  • ColmBreathnachColmBreathnach Charter Member
    @evmo, glucosamine / chondroitin was recommended to me by a leading physio, who also sold it (at cost he said). I bought 3 months worth. Couldn't tell whether I was improved or not after the three months was up. Seems like snake oil to me.
    I would be interested to hear about anyone who did notice any improvement though.
  • JulioJulio Member
    edited February 2017

    ColmBreathnach said:
    glucosamine / chondroitin was recommended to me by a leading physio, who also sold it (at cost he said). I bought 3 months worth. Couldn't tell whether I was improved or not after the three months was up. Seems like snake oil to me.
    I would be interested to hear about anyone who did notice any improvement though.

    Did that work for you? I want to try something like that.

    efore you get started, talk to your doctor or registered dietitian (RD) for tips on how to eat healthy when you have osteoarthritis. He or she can give you guidance on what to eat to ease the pain and swelling as well as help you maintain a healthy weight (very important because too much weight can put pressure on the knee joints).

  • I stuck my right knee through a plate glass sliding door at the age of 8 (not that I'd intended to, nor do I recommend it as a recreational activity). Dealing with it for abut 50 years has worn both knees down, so I now deal with non-rheumatoid arthritis in addition to the other issues. I swim, dance and do Tai Chi so I can walk. I've used the glucosamine-chondroitin pills off an on for years with mixed results. My wife says studies show it has about the same affect as placebos in studies, so maybe I should get some of those too! Another thing that has been shown to be a reasonable anti-inflamatory is Tumeric. I haven't noticed much help on the knees, but I often forget to take it.

    The newest thing she wants me to try is Boswellia Extract. Surprisingly, you may already have read about it as an incense, i.e. Frankincense. She and I have strong and healthy skepticism for marketing hype, fads, and "natural miracles", so I'll try it and report back. We bought 150mg tabs from "Vitacost" as "5-Loxin". Here's a link to a science based review (NOT feel good non-science).

  • In college, while sill "young and healthy" I tore up a shoulder pretty bad that nags me to this day. I am one to shy away from taking pain killers unless absolutely needed- so I have tried many different "natural remedies". I was really hoping the glucosamine/chondroitin would help... but I have never felt that it had any noticeable effect when I was taking it versus when I wasn't.

    My dad who has had 2 knee replacements and was trying everything to delay those also tried glucosamine/ chondroitin as well (for 2 years), and also didn't really feel the pills made any difference.

    I am looking forward to the report on Boswellia extract!

  • NicoleNicole Columbia, Maryland Member

    Cheleated magnesium! It must be the cheleated (high absorption type) as mag citrate rarely absorbs in any meaningful way. Almost everyone is deficient in magnesium, an essential building block for bones among other things. I had a major ibuprofen addiction running for 3 years or more and once on cheleated magnesium boom rarely had to take it (my issue is terrible hip bursitis). I have yet to meet a fellow floor nurse whose knees it has not helped.

    G&C can be effective in PREVENTING wear and tear but when it is already there...meh

  • NicoleNicole Columbia, Maryland Member

    *chelated magnesium

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    Currently dealing with shoulder pain, and worried because I had goals of at least one marathon swim plus a 5 miler. I'm bypassing BLS this year, because I still don't have the speed for that one, much as I'd love to do it (plus, now with the shoulder acting up, I'm all the more doubtful about the financial outlay). But I'd LOVE to hear from others who have had shoulder pain and could still complete marathon swims. I'm really hoping I don't have to shelve my goals b/c I'm not a kid anymore and I don't have time to spend in doctors' offices when I want to be moving! (I will walk out of the office of any doctor who begins any sentence "at your age....")

    Advice from those who have been there appreciated... oh and thanks @Leonard_Jansen for sharing your experience. It gives me hope. Last thing I want is surgery!

  • danswimsdanswims Portland, ORMember

    The weight room, acupuncture and deep tissue massage have been my friends in managing a somewhat wonky left shoulder for the past 20 or so years. I'm not doing marathon distances but 12,00 to 15,00 yards a week training and 4K to 5K open water swims in season with minimal discomfort. Pretty sure I could build up to more if time in my life was there. Yes agree that "at your age" is total BS.

  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member

    Bad luck with the injury, @dpm50. For what it's worth, my advice would be to stop and fix it now, rather than pressing on and hoping for the best. Go and see a good sports physio who will help you to build up the supporting structures of the shoulder and set you up with a good regimen of ongoing exercises. And as @danswims suggests, deep tissue sports massage is great too - anything that hurts that much simply must be good for you.

    Then, once it's started to recover and you're pain free, go and see a stroke correction coach who will be able to look at video from above and below the water at different angles and hopefully see what is putting strain on your shoulder. For a lot of us, shoulder pain is the result of a stroke defect whose negative effects on the body are amplified by the repetition of long distance. I ran up against this problem a few years ago, and I went to see a coach with the specific goal of highlighting the cause of the injury and resolving it (so no distractions about wanting to swim faster etc). She identified a number of problems that were putting strain on my shoulder, and gave me a core set of drills to help me correct them. It's hard to change embodied habits, and I had to devote several months to 30 min pool sessions, 4-5 times a week, focusing on the drills. I did hardly any straight swim training during that time, but instead learned to alternate a lap or 2 of drill with a lap or two of attentive swimming to learn to recognise the feeling of the corrected stroke. I wrote a short blog about it here.

    A few months later, I went back for an update and re-jig, and you can see the difference it made in this blog.

    My swimming is still VERY far from perfect, and I still have a weakness in my shoulder, which I manage with strengthening exercises as well as continuing regular drilling. But the months I spent trying to fix the injury and its cause have paid dividends. I've done long swims since then, including attempting the 7 stages of the 8 Bridges the year after the stroke correction without so much as a squeak of trouble from my shoulder. It might not work for everyone, and not all injuries are easily fixable, but for the sake of a few months' work, it's worth a go. This isn't shelving swimming, it's investing in it.

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    Thanks for the suggestions, Dan and Karen--I have another chiro appt a week from Monday. The guy is an Ironman triathlete who works on the cream of the crop Kenyan runners and other elite athletes--he's helped me before, although he makes me suffer on the table w/ his deep massage. I see others in his practice meanwhile, but b/c he's so good, it's harder these days to get an appt with him. I'm also thinking I should have an orthopedic MD take a look. Want to just keep swimming! But I want it to be quality swimming, not limping along.

  • Follow up on Boswellia Extract i.e. Frankincense. We bought 150mg tabs from "Vitacost" as "5-Loxin". Here's a link to a science based review (NOT feel good non-science).

    WOW. I'd been having knee and shoulder issues for MONTHS before starting this. I've been taking two capsules at breakfast since I posted on Feb. 26. The knee pain I had been feeling starting at about a mile of walking WENT AWAY AFTER 4 DAYS. I've been walking with no pain or popping since that time with no recurrence. My shoulder that has had a heavy and painful tendon "twang" since I did the Oxford/Bellevue Sharkfest in butterfly now (over this past month) only occasionally needs a swing to loosen it or "pop" it, and no memorable pain or mobility issues.

    Having used Tumeric, Osteo Biflex and other things to gain some results for many years, I'm used to these things just "taking the edge off". I can't say definitively that the Boswellia made the difference here, but I can say that I did NOT make any other changes, my pain had been chronic for months, along with accompanying lessening of mobility in knees and shoulder. Either way, I'm going to continue with it!

    I'll also note that my wife has some muscle and tendon issues in her feet. She tried this as well, and had NO noticeable improvement in the same timeframe. As with anything, your mileage will vary.

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