Getting older can be a real pain... especially in the knees.
About 20% of U.S. adults have chronic knee pain, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine. About 25% of women and 17% of men over 70 report having knee pain.
One of the main causes for older folks: osteoarthritis. That happens when the protective cartilage in your knee joint wears out.
As folks get older, it's causing a spike in knee-replacement surgeries. Each year, 700,000 people receive total knee replacements in the U.S. That number will surge five-fold within the next 15 years to hit 3.5 million.
Many of these replacements are completely unnecessary or done far too soon – costing you big money and making more surgeries likely down the road.
More than a third of knee replacements are "inappropriate," according to a 2014 study from Virginia Commonwealth University. That means they weren't necessary based on the patient's range of motion, degree of arthritis, and level of pain.
This is outrageous... and a sure sign of why you can't trust your doctor to have your best interests at heart.
A new study from the U.K. highlights why these types of procedures are a growing problem. The younger you are when you get a knee replacement, the higher your risk of needing a "revision" surgery later... So docs have to go back in and fix or replace the new joint.
For men between the ages of 50 and 54 who had a knee replacement, 35% needed revision surgery in just five years. But a knee replacement is supposed to last up to 20 years, according to the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons.
Knee-replacement surgery is an elective procedure, meaning it's up to the patient to determine when to get it done.
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So instead of shelling out a bunch of cash, take these four steps first to alleviate pain before going under the knife...
1. Go for a walk – Six thousand steps per day is the magic number to keep osteoarthritis at bay. This was the amount discovered to have the most health benefits (like minimizing knee pain) in a 2014 study from Boston University.
And a more recent study from medical journal Arthritis Care & Research saw that just 45 minutes of walking a week helped with knee pain – a much more achievable goal for folks in a lot of pain. If you're already in pain... start with something gentler like water exercises.
2. Therapy – Working with a physical therapist helps you build up the muscles around your knee to keep it functioning better. Strengthening your hamstrings, for instance, helps absorb shock around your knee (which is otherwise left unprotected when the cartilage wears out).
Doing simple stretches (like these) can help build your muscles and reduce pain. Go slow, and don't try to "push through" any pain. Talk to your doctor or work with a physical therapist to learn how to do these safely.
3. Lose weight – I know, it's easy to shrug this one off, but making a few dietary changes helps shed some extra pounds.
It's important because for every pound you lose, you take three pounds of pressure off your knees. So even losing a few pounds can make a big difference.
4. Medications – Taking anti-inflammatories long term puts you at risk for liver or kidney damage. However, if you want to delay surgery, it might be a good option for a short period of time, depending on the medication. We know folks who've taken Aleve for years to avoid a knee replacement. We do suggest consulting with your doctor about timing, your history of liver and kidney problems, and proper dosing.
Some docs might also recommend steroid injections. Be careful with this measure, as steroids have some nasty side effects. These can include nerve damage and even killing bone tissue. Save this step for later – and only if other options fail.
Have knee pain? Let us know how you've handled it by writing to us right here: [email protected].
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Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
April 13, 2017
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