Pain and the choice to walk or not walk

I got over, mostly, not being able to run. I am not doing so well with not walking. It feels boring and mundane to cry about it but I do cry about it. I cried in Newfoundland on the day everyone else went hiking. I could ride hundreds of kilometres but a hilly 10 km hike was way out of my range. I cry when I can’t walk Cheddar and some days when I can’t walk home from work. It’s not like I really suffer. I can ride my bike. Or a family member can pick me up. Cheddar has lots of people happy to walk him. Even the daughter of this blog’s Susan, who is studying at my university, has stopped by the help out, de-stress, and walk Cheddar.

Still though, it’s sad. (I’m looking forward to my new left knee.)

On our Facebook page I share stories of 86 year olds running the NYC marathon but here I am 55, and nervous about next weekend in New York. It makes me nervous now for the same reason I used to love visiting, so much walking. I still love the city but it feels like it’s not meant for me. It helps when I visit friends in Manhattan with their own mobility issues. They take variants of Uber and seem to get around just fine.

The thing is it’s the variability and unpredictably that gets me. I was stuck recently in downtown Toronto unable to put weight on my left leg. I didn’t have my cane or my knee brace and I was limping from place to place. Strangers gave me odd looks, like they were thinking I was alone and day drunk.

I burst into tears when I found a Starbucks and there was no place to sit. Other days it feels cranky but just cranky and I can walk a few kilometers without trouble. I just don’t know what to expect. There’s always aches and pains but sometimes it’s a dull thing in the background and other days it takes my breath away.

The choice to not walk isn’t straightforward. There are days when I just can’t but there are oodles of studies showing that it’s not making things worse to walk and might actually be helping. So when I can walk, I do. My pain tolerance has gone up and I suffer through walking when I can.I’m counting walks now in the 219 in 2019 group.

Here are three recent stories about walking and knee osteoarthritis. The tl:dr version: Walking doesn’t cause inflammation of the joint and doesn’t make the cartilage situation worse. I knew about the latter but not the former. Walking does help with joint mobility. The last story is striking because it’s about golf. When I tried it, I drove around in the buggy but according to this study I should have walked.

Do You Need to Stop Exercising If You Have Arthritis? Conventional wisdom holds that rest is key. Here’s what research says. That’s a headline from Runners’ World.

From that article: “The conclusion is that the perception about exercise being harmful for cartilage is based on misinformation, and highlights the need for better education, according to study author Alessio Bricca, Ph.D., of the Institute of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Aberdeen.

“People with knee osteoarthritis must be reassured that therapeutic exercise prescribed to prevent or treat symptomatic knee osteoarthritis is safe and, if anything, could improve cartilage composition,” he told Runner’s World. “Instead of rest and activity avoidance, these people should be encouraged, reassured, and supported to engage in physical activity.”

He added that exercise may temporarily cause pain flares when undertaken initially, but that those usually dissipate with time, especially if you’re careful to increase activity on a gradual basis.”

Short brisk walks may help prevent disability in people with arthritis

“An hour a week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity reduced their risk of disability, the study found. Specifically, the activity reduced the risk of walking too slowly to safely cross a street by 85 percent, and their risk of not being able to do daily living activities — for example, morning routine tasks such as walking across a room, bathing and dressing — by nearly 45 percent.

By the end of the four years, 24 percent of participants who did not get a weekly hour of brisk physical activity were walking too slowly to safely cross the street, and 23 percent had difficulty performing their morning routines, according to the study.

About 14 million older Americans have symptomatic knee osteoarthritis, the most common type of osteoarthritis. About 2 in 5 people with osteoarthritis — most of whom have it in their lower joints — develop disability.

Federal guidelines recommend low-impact physical activity for older adults with arthritis, and recommend that older adults do at least 2.5 hours a week of moderate-intensity activity.”

Get off the golf cart if you have knee osteoarthritis Science Daily, April 18, 2018

” From presidents to retirees, more than 17 million people over the age of 50 golf regularly. Knee osteoarthritis, which causes swelling, pain and difficulty moving the joint, is one of the leading causes of disability in this age group. It may seem intuitive that golfers with knee osteoarthritis should stay off their feet and ride in a golf cart. But new research has found, for the first time, that walking the course provides significantly higher health benefits and is not associated with increased pain, cartilage breakdown or inflammation. “

Image description: Sam’s legs in black leggings and brown boots in a pile of bright, colourful, autumn leaves.

5 thoughts on “Pain and the choice to walk or not walk

  1. It’s hard when the value you place on your experience is not what the people around you expect from you. Chronic pain can do strange things to your head (not to mention increasing your blood pressure and other physical side effects). I hope you get the replacement soon and get some relief!

  2. This is very helpful, thanks for the links. I have 2 relatively bad knees, but am still quite a ways from knee replacement. I’ve wondered whether I should stop any impact exercise, such as walking and hiking, whether I’m causing additional damage. Certainly no running for me, but it looks like the lower impact exercise is still ok.

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