Replacing joints like old tires
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information there were over 77,000 joint replacements performed in Canada last year.
This is a significant increase from 1997-1998 when there were 32,000 hip and knee replacements performed.
Knee replacement surgeries have doubled over the last decade and more than tripled in the 45 to 64 age group.
So why the big increase?
Evidently it’s not all due to obesity. Ironically, trying to stay fit and avoiding extra pounds is taking a toll on a generation that wants old joints to be swapped out like old tires on a car.
Joint replacements have enabled millions of people to lead better lives, and surgeons are increasingly comfortable offering them to younger people.
But here’s the trouble: No one really knows how well these implants will perform in the active baby boomers that are getting them now.
Most studies were done in older folks whose expectations were to be able to go watch a grandchild’s soccer game — not play the sport themselves.
Even the studies presented at a recent orthopedics conference that found knee replacements are lasting 20 years, come with the caveat that this is in older people who were not stressing their new joints by running marathons, skiing or playing tennis.
Besides the usual risks of surgery — infection, blood clots, anesthesia problems — replacing joints in younger people increases the odds they’ll need future operations when these wear out, specialists say.
So what can you do to ensure that you don’t need a knee replacement until much later in life and hopefully not at all?
Here are some simple strategies to keep your knees healthy:
Number one, cross train.
People tend to find one thing they like and do it a lot, but multiple activities prevent overuse.
Balance your routines to build strength, flexibility, core muscles and cardiovascular health.
Number two, lose weight.
Every extra pound you carry registers as five extra pounds on your knees.
Number three, spend more time warming up.
Break a sweat and get the blood flowing before you go full blast.
This will warm up the muscles and allow them to work to protect the knee joint as you enjoy your chosen sport.
Number four, let muscles and joints recover, and rest in between workouts.
Overuse is one of the most common causes of wear and tear on joints, muscles and tendons; allowing them to recover will mean less discomfort and a longer life for all of your body’s joints.
Finally, if you have knee or hip injury, get it treated properly. Damage from injuries can result in arthritis and joint degeneration down the road.
Doing the right exercises and stretches at the time of the injury to minimize its severity may help to prevent a joint replacement in the future.
Ben Chatterson is a physiotherapist at Rehabilitation in Motion which has four Island locations including two in Campbell River: Willow Point, 923-3773; Quinsam (across from SaveOn Foods), 286-9670; Comox Valley, 334-9670; Port Alberni; 723-9675. Ben Chatterson works at the Comox Valley Clinic. Visit www.rehabinmotion.com