A friend of mine is a runner, and for the last many years has been nursing ailing knee joints. But in spite of the obvious degeneration (indicated by increasing pain) he feels that this is price he is willing to pay for the sense of well-being and pleasure (runners high?) that he gets from running. His preference is cross country, running mountain trails for the most part, so a big part of the pleasure is being in the outdoors communing with nature.
Now his doctor wants to replace both knees. My point to him is that his problem is that he is outpacing his aging body’s ability to heal the joints.
For the most part, orthopedic doctors do not believe that joints can actually heal, but recent research shows they can indeed regrow cartilage, if the abuse is paused long enough and the immune system can be quieted so as to pause the inflammation that is a major component of the joint destruction.
Here is the main point: as we age we take longer to heal, and our joints can be the first parts to be affected by our activities, causing damage faster than our body can repair that damage. Daily distance running would be the prime example of how to break down faster than we can rebuild. Similarly, doing heavy squats every Friday is guaranteed to kill our knees eventually, because as we age the time to effect complete repair will eventually outpace the damage rate.
The key is to pay attention to the pain, and when we feel degeneration, take time to heal and space the exercise further apart to recover the joint’s integrity. It is not the end of the world to take a healing break – it’s a way to keep playing the game in the future, into advanced age if we like.
So how do we quiet the immune system to stop killing our joints specifically? It turns out that we need to eat raw cartilage or at least lightly cooked cartilage. Researchers finally got around to asking why chicken soup is such a great reliever of joint pain, and discovered that undenatured chicken cartilage, when it passes through our digestive system, signals our immune system to leave the joints alone; it wakes it up to the fact that it is us, not some invader. Life Extension Foundation has put this to work in a supplement that I am using. Over the months since starting its use, I have seen improved flexibility in my hands and knees, and have hit new records in my leg press load, even though my heavy leg days are 21 days apart.
Good Living – Frank