Tag Archives: osteoarthritis

Denise Cerny

November 12, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

I don’t ever remember being bored,” says Denise Cerny.

She sits at her kitchen table for just a couple of moments before jumping up to pour a glass of iced tea. She sits again, then jumps up to grab her iPad so she can investigate something on the Internet.

The constant movement fits her well. Her parents are Ardith Smeal, 92, and the late Donald Smeal. Donald owned Smeal Fire Apparatus Co. for more than 50 years. The company is one of two in Nebraska manufacturing those bright red vehicles people see rushing to eliminate fires.

Along with their west Omaha home, she and her husband, Rod, keep a home in Phoenix. Denise gardens, often finding unusual plants to keep in pots on the back deck. She and her husband also golf avidly.

“Activity is important in our life and in our relationship with each other,” says a sister, Mary Lou Tomka of Lincoln. “My dad and mom had seven daughters, and five of us played softball at the same time. We’ve always been involved in activities.”

Cerny long kept in shape as a marathon runner. She ran marathons in New York, Los Angeles, Alaska, and Hawaii.


“When the kids were little I used it as my down time,” Cerny says. “There’s something about being in the open air, focused on running—it keeps me going.”

Make that it “kept” her going. Five years ago, at age 58, her knees began to hurt after running. She did not admit it at first—she liked having strong knees.

“That was one thing I would always say. I would run, and I would look up and say ‘Thank you, God, for good knees!’”

She finally saw an orthopedist, also a friend of hers, who said, “You have osteoarthritis in both knees.”

Cerny’s heart fell. She had to quit running.

“It took a long time before I could drive past a runner and not be envious.”

She underwent surgery and spent several weeks on the couch recuperating.

“Before I had the surgery I thought, ‘What am I going to do?’” Cerny says. “I had to be in the house.”

The surgery could not keep her down totally.

“I started playing Rock Band,” Cerny says with a girlish giggle. “I had never played a video game before…but you know what, it’s a lot of fun!”

After several weeks, she started moving again, even if the athletic activity switched gears.

These days Cerny’s great athletic passion is bicycling. She rides her bicycle frequently around Omaha and has ridden RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) every year for the past 12 years.

“I was still marathoning and my sisters (Renee Smeal of Omaha and Tomka) said ‘you ought to do this.’” Cerny says. “At that time I didn’t have a very good bike. After a couple of years I got a better bike. You would not believe how much easier that made things.”

Cerny’s definition of better includes lighter. The lower weight of the bike allowed her to ride faster and longer. This was especially helpful five years ago.


“I had done RAGBRAI right before my surgery because I wanted to be in shape,” Cerny says. “And that worked!”

Cerny discovered that bicycling does not hurt her knees.

“I had to find other ways to take up that slack,” Cerny says of not being able to run. “I did RAGBRAI the next year after surgery and was still fine. I started working with a trainer because I thought I needed someone who knows what they are doing so I don’t hurt myself again.”

Bicycling gives her the outlet once taken up by running.

“Once you do it, you have to keep doing it,” Cerny quips. “The people of Iowa are so great with their pies and the parties they throw. The last day when you get to the Mississippi, you’re (geographically) as high as you’re going to be all week, and you want people to know how great this is.”

Tomka no longer rides on RAGBRAI, but Smeal and Cerny ride with a group from Omaha known as Team Angry during the weeklong party/bicycling event.

“My sisters talked me into joining a team for safety reasons,” says Cerny, who still rides solo during the week, catching up with the group at her own pace.

“It isn’t a race, and it isn’t a ride where you have to stick together,” says Smeal. “The only time we ride together is the last day. On the last day we like to enter the final town together. You ride in as a team and people cheer and you get your picture taken with your team dipping their front tires into
the Mississippi.”

No matter whether Cerny bikes, golfs, or plays Rock Band, she keeps a “can do” attitude in mind.

“I really like my life,” Cerny says. “I’m really lucky I can do that.”


Managing Osteoarthritis

November 10, 2013 by

It might start simply with a few nagging aches and pains. Your knees are hurting more; your shoulders are bothering you; your back is aching. Perhaps these pains have even caused you to cut back on some of your hobbies or affected how you spend your free time: Maybe you’re gardening less or your golf swing’s not as good.

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative arthritis, can and will eventually affect everyone. That sounds rather ominous. “Degenerative arthritis is a term that is generally used and obviously differs from rheumatoid arthritis, which is an auto-immune disease,” explains Dr. Michael Morrison of Omaha Orthopedic Clinic and Sports Medicine. “But degenerative arthritis is the same as wear and tear and is associated, just simply, with the aging process.”

Dr. Morrison says that, generally, people in their 50s and 60s will start to feel the aggravating pains and experience the swelling of joints, though these symptoms can occur much later. He shares that some people may experience an accelerated condition 
due to genetics.

While the aging process as a whole leads to the aches and pains we experience, how we choose to exercise can affect the condition as well. High-impact activities, such as running and jumping, are hard on the joints. “Most people believe that if they start to get some aches in their joints, they can just exercise through them, but that probably irritates it more,” says Dr. Morrision. While exercise is always recommended for good health, he suggests lower to no-impact activities, such as swimming, bicycling, or even using 
elliptical machines.

To combat the pain that you already may be feeling, Dr. Randall Neumann of OrthoWest recommends starting out with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory remedies, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to lessen the pain. Dr. Morrison also recommends herbal supplements as a good addition to the OTC regimen: “I’m a big believer in it.” He suggests trying glucosamine MSM. Glucosamine is found naturally in the body and helps with keeping joints healthy. He also recommends SAM-e and drinking cherry juice.

“I’ve seen them help many patients,” Dr. Morrison says. “But what works for one person might not work for another, so you are going to have to experiment with those and see what can give you the most relief.”

If OTC medicines are not providing enough relief, your physician can prescribe an anti-inflammatory that has a somewhat stronger dosage. However, Dr. Neumann cautions against medicating too liberally. “You can take pain pills, but we like the non-narcotic pain medication, such as Tramadol,” he says. “Most physicians are going to shy away from anything as far as narcotic for pain because they all have addicting potential.”

Physician-administered injections into the problem joint are also an option: Cortizone shots work as an anti-inflammatory and hyaluronic acid injected into the joint acts 
as a lubricant.

Finally, joint replacement surgery is an option for those who have end-stage disease, says Dr. Neumann. “These people are hurting, they have pain everyday, and their function is down. They have a hard time working, walking, going up and down stairs, and just having a miserable time in life.” The joint replacement procedure involves replacing the natural joint with a metal and plastic device. “You could still have some soft-tissue pain around there, but usually the pain from wear and tear arthritis is because bone is rubbing on bone there, and it causes an 
inflammatory response.”

Generally, says Dr. Morrison, the time frame for surgery, healing, and rehab is between four to six weeks. Knee replacements tend to involve a little more intensive rehab than hip replacements.

Osteoarthritis can affect joints in the upper extremities (such as shoulders, wrists, elbows) as well, but “is not usually brought on as quickly as in the weight-bearing joints,” Dr. Morrison clarifies.

“The decision to progress with anything surgical is strictly based on the patient’s inability to manage their pain, despite all conservative measure, and their quality of life is significantly hindered,” adds Dr. Morrison. “It is not based on what an x-ray looks like; it is based on the symptoms presented by the patient.”