"Mrs. Bryant, I don't know why your 45-year-old husband has the body of a 70-year-old man, but he does."
Dr. Ross's words echoed in my head as we talked in the small post-op consultation room following my husband, Paul's, neurosurgery. This room was a familiar place. Just three years earlier I met with an orthopedic surgeon in this room to discuss the outcome of Paul's hip replacement surgery. Now we were talking about his spinal surgery.
My husband is one of 20 million Americans living with some degree of osteoarthritis—a disease that erodes the cartilage that cushions our joints, eventually resulting in bone-on-bone rubbing. It's the leading cause of hip and knee replacements.
For Paul, osteoarthritis first made its presence known in his left hip. After shoveling wet, heavy, Chicago snow in 1992, he noticed pain from what felt like a pulled groin muscle. But the pain persisted for months, and finally he went to see our physician. The diagnosis of osteoarthritis didn't alarm us. Many people we knew had some degree of arthritis pain. Take some acetaminophen, maybe some ibuprofen, and you're good to go!
But Paul went through bottles of acetaminophen, buckets of ibuprofen, and round after round of prescriptions to treat pain. He tried chiropractic therapy, exercise and rest, heating pads and cold packs … the pain became worse. Most days he came home from work irritable from the relentless aching in his hip.
"Hi, hon. How was your day?" I held my breath, wondering what kind of mood Paul would be in.1