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Published on February 11, 2015

Living with Joint Replacements

February 11, 2015

man riding a stationary bikeRates of knee and hip replacements are rising as younger adults seek a long-term solution to debilitating joint pain. A healthy lifestyle can help ensure the new joint functions smoothly for a long time.

More than 600,000 knee replacement and 400,000 hip replacement surgeries are performed in the United States each year. In the past, joint replacement was usually reserved for older patients. Now, almost half of hip replacements are in patients younger than age 65, though they are still more common in patients older than age 50.

In a new study presented at the 2014 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons conference, researchers reported that an estimated 7 million Americans—or two out of every 100—now enjoy greater mobility thanks to artificial knees and hips. The study was the first to calculate how many people are living with artificial joints.

While people are opting for pain-relieving joint replacement surgery at younger ages, the implants themselves are lasting longer than ever. Thanks to advances in materials and designs more tailored to an individual patient’s anatomy and natural movements, modern artificial joints can be expected to last 10 to 20 years.

Want to maximize the longevity of a new joint? Follow a few simple steps:

Exercise, but don’t overdo it. After joint replacement, physical activity can help reduce joint stiffness, improve range of motion and strengthen the muscles that support the joint. To prevent damage to the new joint, you may be advised to swap high-impact sports, such as running or tennis, for low-impact activities, such as swimming or stationary biking. Speak with your surgeon or physical therapist about developing an individualized exercise program.

Maintain a healthy weight. Extra pounds place added stress and strain on natural and artificial joints alike, wearing them out faster. The good news? Joint replacement may make it easier to lose weight. In a study recently published in the journal Orthopedics, a significant proportion of knee and hip replacement patients lost 5 percent or more of their presurgery body weight after surgery, possibly because they were able to lead a healthier, more active lifestyle.

Enjoy a healthy diet. Eating the right foods can help you get in the best shape possible prior to surgery, promote healing after surgery and lead to good overall health long-term. For example, consuming foods rich in calcium, iron and vitamin C immediately before joint replacement can help build new bone and replace red blood cells after the procedure. Your physician may recommend other nutrients or supplements to aid healing and minimize scarring or advise against certain foods (such as those containing vitamin K) that can interfere with the healing process. Once you are back on your feet, the best diet is one that helps you control your weight, promotes good bone health and provides balanced nutrition. You should discuss any dietary concerns with your healthcare professional.

Which Joints Can Be Replaced?

In addition to knees and hips, joints all over the body can now be replaced, including shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, ankles, feet and toes. Spinal discs are occasionally replaced with sophisticated metallic implants to treat painful conditions of the lower back.

If you have knee or hip pain, joint replacement surgery could help restore your independence and get you back to your daily activities. At the Joint Center at Kishwaukee Hospital in DeKalb and Valley West Hospital in Sandwich, we use the best evidence-based practices to get you on the path to a healthy, pain-free lifestyle quickly. Make an appointment with our Joint Care Coordinator to learn more about our patient-centered process for joint replacement surgery or to schedule a tour.

Sources: niams.nih.govncbi.nlm.nih.gov

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