For over 15 years I had gone faithfully to the gym to do Pilates with a personal trainer. I was fit enough to go on walking tours in Europe, or anywhere for that matter. Then, all of a sudden, when I hit my mid-70s, I found myself suffering from pain in my knee.
The doctor told me I had bursitis, which meant that the bursae or fluid-filled sacs near my knee joint were inflamed. It has been called the “housemaid’s knee” because it is often caused by repeated kneeling. I guess I overused it from too much kneeling in church, for I was a daily Mass-goer. I even walked on my knees once in Quiapo church in the 1980s, to petition the Nazareno for some favor.
The first doctor I went to drained the fluid in my right knee. He showed me a large vial full of amber liquid that came from my knee. He also injected it with a steroid. For a few days after the procedure, I had to use a wheelchair to travel from my bed to the toilet as it hurt too much to stand and walk. I had to buy a cane, too.
I became a fixture in the hospital’s Physical Therapy (PT) Department as I underwent physiotherapy for my knees twice a week. An MRI revealed that I had “patellar tendinopathy,” this being localized pain in or around a tendon in the patella or kneecap.
But the word that leaped at me in the MRI reading was “degeneration.” It stuck in my mind and tortured me. My knees were degenerating! Was this the beginning of my body’s deterioration?
Finally the doctor said that, in a nutshell, I had osteoarthritis, the bane of aging. I felt trapped. Was there no escape from this condition? More PT was ordered to strengthen my knees.
I noticed that people with knee problems were bow-legged. Two of my friends, a man and a woman, were bowlegged, but after they had undergone knee-replacement surgery, their knees had straightened perfectly. Thus I would stand in front of a mirror a few times a week to observe my knees, checking to see if they were getting bowlegged yet.
The housemaids and my driver advised me to wrap tuba-tuba leaves around my knees overnight. Tuba-tuba is a plant (Jotropha curcas), with wide five-lobed leaves. It is a folk remedy for bruises and sprained ankles, and is readily found in backyards and vacant lots. In the evenings before bedtime, my yaya would wash the leaves, wipe them dry with a clean cloth, then heat them over a low fire. She would put some coconut oil over the leaves before applying them as a patch over my knees, over which she tied a torn-up old kamiseta.
When I stood up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, the leaves would slide down, especially when they had dried up. The tuba-tuba leaves offered me relief from pain, so that I often had them applied a few times a week.
Then a balikbayan friend told me that she would rub castor oil around her knees two to three times a day and this made the pain go away. I was certainly grateful for this piece of information and tried it myself. Miracle of miracles, it worked!
When I next visited my orthopedic doctor and told him about the castor oil, he said, “Oh, but Vicks Vaporub is better! It’s got camphor, menthol, and eucalyptus oil. Try it.” Then he added, “But I still want to do a PRP injection into your knee.” That meant platelet-rich plasma, from blood drawn from a vein, put in a centrifuge for a few hours and then injected into the knees. “The concentrated blood platelet injection contains healing growth components that increase the body’s natural ability to repair itself.” (www.healthlinkcenter.com)
He had already injected hyaluronic acid, a lubricant, into my knee and it helped a lot.
I have used Vicks on my chest and back and would apply it to the soles of my feet before putting on a pair of socks, for it was an effective remedy for respiratory problems. But I had never heard of using it on my knees.
These days I would sit on my chair and rub Vicks vigorously around my knees, massaging the backside, two to three times a day. Unfortunately for my doctor, he lost me as a patient because I haven’t been back to see him in the last six months. For now, my quest for pain-free knees has ended. —CONTRIBUTED