Santa Visits the Doctor: a "Joint" Effort

Dec 19, 2013, 17:00 ET from Orthopaedic Research Society

ROSEMONT, Ill., Dec. 19, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- It's a cold, wintery day at the North Pole. Santa is busy with last minute preparations for the big day.  However, after centuries of going up and down chimneys, his joints are aching, especially his knees.  Santa makes an appointment to see Dr. Jingle who researches knee pain and finds out that his "belly like a bowl full of jelly" could partially be to blame for his painful joints. Here is what transpired between the Doctor and Mr. Claus:


Dr. Jingle:  What seems to be the problem, Mr. Claus?

Santa:  It's my knees.  They hurt - especially when I'm running around or doing a lot of physical activity. They also seem to click and lock up some times.

Dr. Jingle:   How long has this been happening?

Santa:  For a few decades now, but it's been getting worse and the pain lasts longer than it used to. 

Dr. Jingle:  I looked at your x-rays and I'm afraid you have osteoarthritis.

Santa:  Arthritis!  I thought that only happens to old people.  I'm only a few centuries old.  Not to mention that I stay pretty active. I don't just sit in a sleigh all day you know.

Dr. Jingle:  I understand, but you have been doing a lot of repetitive movement that's hard on your joints.  Wear and tear, we call it.  And from what I hear from Mrs. Claus, you have been over indulging in sweets.

Santa:  Well, maybe I've put on a few pounds over the decades…

Dr. Jingle:   I've seen pictures, Mr. Claus.  You have put on a lot of weight in the last 50 years!   That's another contributor to your painful joints - especially your knees.   From your x-rays I can see that the space in your knees has narrowed, telling me that the tissue there, the cartilage, has probably worn down and it's not working as it used to.  You're not alone.  Osteoarthritis is a huge problem - especially with our aging population.   Also, as more and more people indulge themselves these days, especially during the holidays, they are putting on weight that they can't take off.   Over the years, it adds up and contributes to many diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and osteoarthritis.  

Santa:  Oh... I didn't realize that.

Dr. Jingle:  It's true.  Researchers now know that the excess fat works as an organ.  The fat actually puts out many bad things into our bodies, which changes our metabolism.   We call it metabolic syndrome and it makes your body very susceptible to inflammation including the diseases that I mentioned earlier.   Actually many new studies have shown that a molecule called leptin which comes from fat cells not only works on appetite but has many inflammatory effects on a lot of our organs,  including the bones and cartilage. 

Santa:  All this time I thought this extra baggage was just that, excess baggage!  HO! HO! HO!

Dr. Jingle:  Maybe you can make some changes in your own lifestyle and people will follow your example.

Santa:   You have a great idea there, Doc.  What can I do?

Dr. Jingle:   You can start by changing your lifestyle.   Start eating healthy, exercise moderately and no more cookies at every stop.

Santa:  Ok, I'll do it! But what can I do about my knee pain now?   I need to get ready for Christmas!

Dr. Jingle:   Everybody is different, but you may want to try over the counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) intermittently. That should help with your knee pain for now. You can also try some nutraceuticals that have been shown to help many OA sufferers depending on degree of disease and other factors.  The most common is called glucosamine.  I'll see you in a month to follow up.

Santa:   Thank you, Dr. Jingle,   I will follow your advice and I promise - no more cookies at every stop!  You know, I was going to leave you a lump of coal this year, but maybe I will leave you something special instead! HO! HO! HO!

Dr. Jingle, along with C. William Wu, PhD and Fred Nelson, MD have worked on obesity and osteoarthritis for over 20 years. They are members of the Orthopaedic Research Society ( which strives to be the world's leading forum for the dissemination of new musculoskeletal research findings. 

SOURCE Orthopaedic Research Society