It all started with a word: Chondrocalcinosis.
Many years ago I used to run every morning. I would get up around 6:00, put on some jogging gear and hit the well-paved streets of San Francisco. What I did not realize at the time was the constant damage to my knees and leg bones from pounding the unforgiving surfaces, mostly concrete. I ran up hills, I ran down hills, all the time wearing away the protective cartilage coverings and pounding the heck out of my skeleton.
By 1997, some the arteries in my femurs (upper leg bones) began shutting down, and parts of the bones died, causing excruciating pain. After orthopedic surgery, my mobility returned and my bones mostly restored.
Because of the potential for repeat damage, I had my knees x-rayed every so often, just to keep an eye on things. It was on one of these routine tests in November 2014 that the word “Chondrocalcinosis” first appeared.
I am a Registered Nurse, and I studied Sports Medicine before going into Nursing, but I had never encountered such a condition previously. Being the curious fellow that I am, I looked it up and found that it meant my body had too much free Calcium in the blood, and it would accumulate in connective tissue, like cartilage, causing pain and loss of motion. It is also referred to as Pseudo-Arthritis and Pseudo-Gout because it mimics these other conditions. In the X-ray above, it is shown by the little clouds in the joint space, mostly noticeable on the left side of the frame (the shot is from behind the knee).
Some of my relatives did complain of arthritic pain, mostly fingers, knees, shoulders, and elbows. I remember my grandmother taking “Gold Needles” as a treatment. I doubt it did any good, and the only gold involved probably went into the doctor’s bank account. Back then, they thought it might have been an autoimmune disorder, like Rheumatoid Arthritis, but I’m beginning to think it might have been Chondrocalcinosis, but it was not known at the time.
Why does Chondrocalcinosis occur? Frequently it is due to joint or soft tissue injury, but it can also be from a rare liver disorder (Wilson disease, caused by too much copper), an iron-storage disorder, or thyroid malfunction.
What does one do about Chondrocalcinosis? Generally, there is very little in the way of treatments. There are no medications to lower the amount of Calcium in the blood, and most people either suffer with the pain or take anti-inflammatory drugs.
I remembered from my nursing days that certain electrolytes have an inverse relationship with others so that if you take more of one, it reduces the blood level of the other. Calcium and Magnesium have such a relationship, and I began taking Magnesium supplements as a casual experiment (the chances of Magnesium overdose are almost non-existent).
Within a few weeks of starting Magnesium supplements, I noticed less pain in my joints. In fact, I felt better in general. Problems with my feet (including a nasty-looking fungal infection on one big toe) seemed to disappear. I’m not entirely certain that the supplements were the key, but I am still taking them.