Friday, January 22, 2010

Millerís annual medical advice


By WARREN MILLER

"Don't do this without talking to your doctor or to my shrink."


This is the week for Miller's annual medical advice. First the disclaimer, though a full-blown disclaimer that would stand up under the assault of a contingency-fee attorney in a lawsuit would take up at least four pages of this newspaper. So let my disclaimer be worth the paper it is written on, which is great for starting fires in a fireplace, if you have one.

However, there is little scientific evidence to indicate that several of these things will ever be approved by the FDA so I take no responsibility for any of them except that they work for me.

When you go to a ski resort that is above 7,000 feet, you will be breathing 25 percent less oxygen than where you live near sea level. It is not inhaling less oxygen that causes the problem, it's the exhaling of carbon dioxide in larger-than-normal amounts. A lot of doctors recommend that you take two aspirin every night for three nights before you go to the high-altitude ski resort. Once you get there, keep taking them for the next three nights. The two daily aspirin thin your blood just enough so that it doesn't tell your brain you are suffocating and lets you sleep. If that doesn't work, try Diamox on your next trip to altitude. Warning: Do not take Diamox unless your doctor prescribes it because the list of potential side effects is three pages long in six-point type.

I read all of the disclaimers and decided to try it anyway and it worked just fine for me. I weigh 210 pounds and the doctor prescribed a 250 mg dose morning and night for three days before I go to altitude and continue one pill twice daily for the next three days. Diamox really worked for me this winter but do not do it without consulting your doctor. (That's another disclaimer!)

You have just spent your first day making more turns than your body should so you can get your money's worth on your lift ticket. Two hours after the lift closes, your thighs are so sore you can't get up out of a chair. This is the truly magic pill that no one can explain. Chew up one Rolaid for each 40 pounds of body weight. The Rolaids go into your bloodstream and take the lactic acid out of the muscles, which is what is causing the pain. I have been doing this one for the last 40 years and it works for me every time. My wife, on the other hand, says, "It is ooga-booga and nothing else!" Maybe she is right, but I know that my annual bill for Rolaids is only half as big as it would be if she used them like I do.

The really weird one I do sometimes when I run out of DMSO for my senior citizen joint lubrication, I rely on WD 40. That's right—it is fish oil based so I just spray it where it hurts and it goes right through my skin and takes any inflammation with it to my bloodstream and I can now ski through the pain, which has magically gone away in less than an hour. Don't do this without talking to your doctor or to my shrink who is a skier and knows that I am certifiably crazy in some areas of my knowledge and behavior!

The cocktail party fashion statement this winter is knee replacement. I was faced with this surgery five years ago when my right knee had to be reinforced with two ace bandages and a rubber sleeve. Nothing worked. That spring, I visited my orthopedic surgeon, who had inserted a 16-inch-long steel rod in my badly broken right leg two years before. His diagnosis was simple: "Your knee is worn out and you have what is called 'bone on bone'. You should have this knee replaced as soon as possible. But before we do that, let's try a new knee brace made in Canada that I have discovered. It has an articulated hinge and transfers the weight of your thigh to the top of your calf so there is no more bone rubbing on bone in your knee." I still haven't had my knee replaced. I even had one made for my left knee to be ready for when it gives out.

Last New Year's Eve I was talking with a friend who was faced with immediate double knee replacement surgery. This meant he would miss an entire winter of skiing and a summer of surfing. I showed him my knee brace and gave him my doctor's name and phone number. They got together, he had a brace made for each knee and skied all last winter, surfed all last summer and still has not had knee replacement surgery. It is a simple, painless, two visits to the doctor and you can ski again. It has worked for me except that I don't have anything to add to the knee replacement status conversation at cocktail parties.

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Warren Miller is a film maker living in Portland, Oregon.






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