5 Ways to Avoid Knee Replacement Surgery

Yesterday I mentioned that I would give you five ways to avoid knee replacement surgery.  With a cost that can run to $45,000, avoiding this expensive procedure can help both your health as well as your pocketbook.  That said, nothing is guaranteed and, if I was experiencing knee pain, I would strongly consider going to the doctor rather than listening to some blogger.  In other words, I am not a doctor, I don't play one on TV and I didn't stay at Holiday Inn Express.  These 5 ways to avoid knee replacement surgery are a preventative guide that is not intended to replace the doctor of your or the governments' choosing. Tip #1 - Get Up and Move, Everybody!

The first way to help your knees and avoid knee replacement surgery is to actually work with them.  Walk, hike, run, rollerblade.  Healthy activity will strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee and keep all the soft tissues - ligaments, tendons, cartilage - well lubricated and well supplied with blood which increase the rate of nutrient uptake and releases waste products more quickly.  The key is regular but moderate activity.  Be careful to avoid overdoing it.  I warn beginning runners that there are three primary reasons for injuries; too much distance; too much speed work; and, too much stretching.  Exercise but exercise moderation too.

Tip #2 -My Those Carrots Look Tasty!

The second way to avoid knee surgery is to take a close look at your eating habits and your weight.  I know, you're tired of the media, the government and the medical system harping on American's weight and the obesity epidemic.  But I am not talking to everybody else.  Just to you.  And I'm not telling you that you "have to" change your diet.  You're a big boy or girl and you can make up your own mind.  I have gout and I know that I should not drink beer but I do anyway because I like beer.  I don't do it often - pain is a great teacher - but I live with the consequences of my actions.  As you do.

So, think about making small changes to your diet.  I tend to favor a more natural diet high in olive oils and vegetables, moderate in meat, low in grains.  Why?  Because this works for me.  What I avoid is sugar.  All the available evidence indicates that sugar - specifically fructose (here is the definitive book on the subject) - is a major player in the obesity and diabetes problem of this country.  Wheat may be a close second.

Think about changes that you could make and stick with.  Start small and celebrate the successes.  They're your knees - and heart, lungs, etc.

Tip #3 -Remember Saturday Night Live?  Me Neither!

They used to used to run skit that always ended with "take a pill!"  Generally not the best advice but applicable here.  The National Institutes of Health is funding a study to see whether the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin helps repair cartilage. Let's quote the findings, "For a subset of participants with moderate-to-severe pain, glucosamine combined with chondroitin sulfate provided statistically significant pain relief compared with placebo—about 79 percent had a 20 percent or greater reduction..."

If you are already experiencing pain, consider these nutritional supplements.  If you are not, I don't know that they will help.

Tip #4 -Don't Step on My Blue Suede Shoes!

What you wear on your feet can greatly impact your knees.  Nurses have known this for generations as have beat cops (when we still had beat cops) and mailmen.  Quality footwear that provides proper support and cushioning is important to avoiding knee replacement surgery since the goal is to avoid damaging the knees in the first place. Athletic shoes are a good choice.  I like running shoes since I'm a runner but my wife likes a good quality walking shoe.

If you are exercising, especially running, you also need to have shoes that will control lateral or sideways motion of the foot.  This motion, called pronation, is natural but due to years of abusing their feet, many people have excessive pronation.  This can destabilize the knee joint.  Make sure the athletic shoes are fitted by someone that knows what they are doing.

Lastly, avoid high heels as much as possible.  That applies to you too, guys!

Tip #5 -Hey Doc!  It Hurts When I Do This....

If you do start having twinges in your knee, don't be John Wayne.  Get some professional help.  Knee pain tends to grow from a small to large chronic condition in the older adult population.  Most of us are not going to blow out a knee dunking the basketball.  Listen to your body and to your doctor.  The doctor will have a lot more therapy options - steriod shots, botox, electrical stimulation - that you can't do on your own.  Let them help.

___________ So that's the 5 ways to avoid knee replacement surgery.  No single huge do-this-you'll-never-be-broken-again.  Just some common sense advice.  I hope it helps.

Have a truly wonderful day!