Steps to Care for Your Joints
Jogging, tennis, racquetball—a lot of active baby boomers have been tough on their knees, hips and other joints all their lives. In a quest to stay active and reduce pain, an ever-growing number of people are turning to joint replacement surgery. Joint replacements have a high success rate, but there’s an alternative: taking steps to care for the joints you already have. The Arthritis Foundation and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggest being kind to your joints by:
- Maintaining a healthy weight. Losing extra pounds reduces stress, wear and tear on knees, hips, back and feet.
- Exercising regularly. Physical activity protects joints by strengthening the muscles that support them.
- Swapping high-impact sports with low-impact activities. Instead of tennis, racquetball or running, try swimming, water aerobics, walking or golf.
- Avoiding repetitive stress. Alternating strenuous activities with rest puts less stress on sensitive joints.
- Using over-the-counter or prescription medications to control pain and inflammation. You can also receive injections of corticosteroids directly in painful knee joints.
- Taking part in physical or occupational therapy. This can increase joint flexibility, muscle strength and range of motion.
- Using mechanical aids. Braces, crutches, walkers or canes may offer some help.
When to Replace Joints
In the best of circumstances, these lifestyle changes may be enough to improve function and control pain. But if you have any of the following signs, speak with your doctor about joint replacement.
- Your joint pain is disturbing your sleep.
- You've tried different noninvasive treatments, including pain medications, and they're not controlling your joint pain.
- Your 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, go up stairs or get up from the floor.
If your doctor believes you’re a candidate for joint replacement, you’ll be referred to an orthopedic surgeon.
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.