Preserve your aging joints and reduce pain

Denise Wells, MD - Courtesy photo
Denise Wells, MD
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Courtesy of Franciscan Health System

Many people over 40 have been tough on their knees, hips and other joints all their lives — jogging, playing tennis or racquetball.

In a quest to stay active and reduce pain, an ever-growing number of people are now turning to joint replacement surgery.

Denise Wells, MD, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon at Federal Way Orthopedic Associates. In her 23 years of practice, she has seen many patients with joint pain either from overuse, sprains, tendonitis, torn muscles or arthritis.

Some of the injuries are from over-exercising while trying to get back into shape or lose weight too quickly.

Her best advice for getting to a healthy weight: “Start exercising slowly with low-impact exercises, then make steady increases over time while being careful not to overdo it.”

Even though joint replacements have a high success rate, you should take alternative steps to protect your joints. The Arthritis Foundation and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggest the following:

• Maintain a healthy weight. Losing extra pounds reduces stress, and wear and tear on knees, hips, back and feet.

• Exercise regularly. Physical activity protects joints by strengthening the muscles that support them.

• Swap high-impact sports for low-impact activities. Instead of tennis or running, try swimming, walking or playing golf.

• Avoid repetitive stress. Alternating strenuous activities with rest puts less stress on sensitive joints.

• Use over-the-counter or prescription medications to control pain and inflammation. You can also receive injections of corticosteroids directly in the painful knee joints.

• Take part in physical or occupational therapy. This can increase joint flexibility, muscle strength and range of motion.

• Use mechanical aids. Braces, crutches, walkers, or canes may offer some help.

In the best of circumstances, these lifestyle changes may be enough to improve function and control pain. But if you have the following signs, speak with your doctor about possible joint replacement:

• Joint pain is disturbing your sleep

• Non-invasive treatments, including pain medications, are not controlling your joint pain

• Joint pain is limiting your ability to keep up a normal routine

• Your joint pain makes it hard for you to get out of a chair, climb stairs or get out of bed

Over the years, surgical techniques have improved and new materials have been developed for implants.

As a result, these surgeries have become one of the most dependable procedures performed today.


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