A desire to stay active and a natural aversion to pain send nearly 800,000 Americans to orthopaedic surgeons each year for a hip or knee replacement. And we’re seeking these operations much earlier in life. According to Dr Scott Martin, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at Harvard Medical School, this isn’t a healthy trend. “A lot of joint replacements are being done because they can be,” says Dr Martin.
Every surgical procedure carries the risk of complications — or even death. Because the average joint that’s replaced only lasts 10 to 15 years, having the procedure done at age 50 instead of 70 means there’s a good chance you’ll need a second procedure when you’re older and at higher risk for complications.
Here are three tips that can help you extend the life of your natural joints and keep the need for replacement in the very distant future.
One of the most important ways to care for your joints is to stay at a healthy weight. For every extra pound you carry, you put about three pounds of additional pressure on your knees and multiply the pressure on your hips by six.
- If you have arthritis, losing just 15 pounds can cut your knee pain in half. If you do eventually need a joint replaced, losing weight beforehand can reduce your risk of having complications from surgery.
- Even if you have tender joints, you can still work out — as long as you stick with exercises that are gentle on your joints, such as swimming, walking, or riding a stationary bike.
Take care when using your joints
Poor posture and using the wrong techniques during your daily activities add more stress to damaged joints.