A week or so ago my husband mentioned that I hadn’t complained about my knees in a while. I thought for a minute (I’m sure I got that funny tilted-head look that dogs get when you ask them a question), and I realized he was right. I hadn’t had any noticeable knee pain or swelling in several weeks. (Funny, how when you’re in pain, you think about it constantly, but when the pain is gone, you can forget it ever existed.)
My knees have given me trouble for about ten years. It all began one day when I did my favorite all-by-myself, no-one-is-watching, slide-on-my-knees-dance-move (ala Tom Cruise in Risky Business), and I felt a sudden, sharp pain in my left knee, which turned out to be a torn meniscus.
Several years and two surgeries later, I still had pain in my left knee (dull now—not sharp), and my right knee was hurting a lot too. The doctor who did my surgeries said it was to be expected because I have a lot of wear and tear in my knee joints: simply the effects of an active lifestyle. He did not use the dreaded “A Word,” but I knew when he said “wear and tear” he meant arthritis (osteoarthritis). He began giving me twice-yearly injections of synthetic synovial fluid (synovial fluid is the liquid that surrounds your knee joints), and he told me I couldn’t run any more.
(I have a confession to make: I never liked running anyway.)
The injections helped a little . . . at first . . . then they didn’t. The pain became more constant, and I learned to expect swelling after my daily brisk walks. So I started doing research on knee replacement—preparing for what seemed like the eventual solution to my joint problems. The large scars I saw on anonymous knees on the internet did not make me eager to undergo the procedure.
I’d been taking a joint supplement every day for a few years, but there was no way to tell if it was helping. Now I found myself taking Aleve twice a day to deal with the pain and swelling; when my primary care doctor found out, she told me I was setting myself up for a stomach ulcer. She suggested topical pain relievers; they helped, but not enough. I needed more. I needed something to deal with the pain and inflammation—something that wouldn’t hurt any other part of me.
So I talked to a healthcare professional who specializes in natural medicines. When I told her what I was dealing with, she immediately said, “Take turmeric—EVERY DAY. And take it with some black pepper . . . it makes it work better.”
So I did. I found turmeric, with black pepper already in it, in a gel cap. I began taking just one capsule* daily about 6 weeks ago. And the difference is unbelievable. I continue to take long walks—on concrete sidewalks, and on a treadmill at the gym—without any noticeable swelling or pain; I even broke into a run the other day because I was late for church and didn’t want to miss the light to get across Broad Street. Even after that quick sprint, my knees didn’t swell; and that amazes me.
Some facts about turmeric:
- Turmeric is a food—a spice—not a man-made medication. It is part of the root system of a plant that grows in Indonesia and India, which is related to the ginger family. It is most commonly found in curry powder and prepared mustard, but it can be added to nearly any savory food—and some sweet foods too.
- Turmeric contains vitamin C, the B vitamins, and curcumin, which is the component that gives the spice its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
- Turmeric is traditionally used in Chinese and Indian medicine to treat arthritis because it blocks inflammatory proteins and enzymes.
- Turmeric may also help prevent other illnesses, including depression, cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. For more information, visit: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-turmeric#section1
And finally . . . I’ll be honest; even with the help of turmeric, my knees still aren’t what they were 15 or 20 years ago. I still can’t crouch down, and getting up out of the bathtub still requires a bit of (comical!) ingenuity, but overall, the difference this little supplement has made to my quality of life has been remarkable. If it buys me a few more years, during which the medical community can improve upon knee replacement, I’ll be more than grateful.
*I take only 600 mg per day. I am not suggesting a dosage—just illustrating the point that it doesn’t take much to be effective.
Warning: High doses of turmeric can act as a blood thinner and cause stomach upset. Avoid turmeric/curcumin if you take blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin), are about to have surgery, are pregnant or have gallbladder disease. It is always wise to consult your physician before taking a nutritional supplement you haven’t taken before.
Photo by Imani Clovis via Unsplash