Cut it Out? Not Just Yet

This morning on the way to work I heard an ad for a local pain management clinic. The ad mentioned that there are 60 000 knee replacement surgeries in Canada, per year. Considering (1) that’s just knees, and (2) how much larger the USA is, that means there are a whole lot of artificial joint surgeries in the Americas, every year.

Now, without going into great detail, the basic thrust of the ad was that there are a lot of people out there getting surgery when there are alternatives to going under the knife, and that they provide them.

I’ve mentioned, once or twice, that I suffer osteoarthritis;

the most common form of arthritis, usually occurring after middle age, marked by chronic breakdown of cartilage in the joints leading to pain, stiffness, and swelling.

For a good primer on osteoarthritis, read this by the Mayo Clinic. Short version; our joints wear out from a combination of factors including age, use, misuse, injury, weight gain and genetics. Treatments include (also from the Mayo Clinic), but are not limited to:

  • Medications
  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Cortisone injections
  • Joint replacement
  • Low impact exercise (including yoga)
  • Heat and cold
  • Acupuncture
  • Dietary supplements

Obviously, the local pain clinic is targeting joint replacement surgery in its ad, suggesting that not all knee joint replacements are necessary. I imagine they will stress non-medicinal, non-invasive therapies to manage the problem.

And it is here that we arrive at my joints. On any list of the joints most affected by OA, always included are knees, hips, spines, shoulders and (oddly) big toes. I have been affected in all of the above, and you can add fingers, wrists and elbows.

Let me say it here, arthritis sucks, big time. A couple of years ago my right wrist got so bad I was having trouble using a computer mouse. Hockey and even yoga were becoming too painful and, as you can imagine, this was seriously disconcerting to a guy who spends as much time exercising as I do. A guy who has said you can have my hockey stick when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. A guy who goes to yoga almost religiously, after all it did for him.


But I was getting to the point where I was contemplating surgery. I don’t even know if there are artificial wrists (I just looked it up, there are), but forget hockey and yoga, driving a computer is how I feed my family, and even that was getting hard. I had to do something.

I’ve been taking glucosamine and chondroitin for years. Wasn’t enough.

I learned wrist mobility exercises. Wasn’t enough.

Heat packs, ice packs, Aleve, all not enough.

I used a brace when exercising. Helped a little, but (stop me if you’ve heard this) it wasn’t enough.

I had the fool thing x-rayed, just to make sure of the diagnosis, and yes I do, indeed, have arthritis in my right wrist. Great, I know what the problem is, but what do I do about it? Around then a buddy at work injured his foot playing kickball and got great results from shock wave therapy, which my chiropractic clinic happens to offer.

So I asked Dr. J about it and he suggested I try laser instead, which I did, and a miracle occurred; my wrist got better, back to 100% normal. Yay.

And 6 months later the arthritis came back. Boo. So I did another course of laser therapy, which fixed my wrist back up again. Yay.

Now the thing is, I didn’t particularly want to have my wrist zapped every six months until the rapture, but I was certainly willing to do so. If having a laser played over my arm every 6 months was what it took to maintain a normal life, I was absolutely willing to do it, but I didn’t have to because once again fate intervened to look after this old fool. Cannabis, and more importantly, along with it, Cannabidiol were legalized in Canada.

Today, 2 years after my last laser therapy, my bad wrist is pain free, 95% of the time. And the 5% when it’s not? The pain is mild, usually transitory, and almost always from overworking the joint, so I can’t even say for sure that it’s my arthritis.

I still take my daily glucosamine, and I still do my wrist mobility exercises, but I no longer take my CBD oil every day. When I feel the wrist pain come back, when I fear the arthritis’ return, I take 2 – 3 drops before bed daily until the pain is gone again. But that’s maintenance, the miracle began with laser therapy, not joint replacement surgery.

If you suffer chronic pain, before you go the traditional routes of drugs and surgery, explore the alternatives. You might just find a solution that doesn’t involve cutting out chunks of your body.