The numbers of individuals undergoing total hip replacement and total knee replacement are increasing significantly.1 Annual rates in the United States for total hip replacement have increased more than 50%. In Denmark, rates have been increasing by 30%. Annual rates in the United States for total knee replacement have increased by more than 170%.2 In Sweden, rates have increased 500% in the last 20 years.3 With the aging of the population and increased lifespan, these rates will continue to increase.
Advanced surgical procedures are invaluable, if you need them. Of course, many persons have unrelenting, daily pain which may require radical surgery. For everyone else, though, the best way forward are the old reliables: regular exercise, as vigorous as is appropriate; a healthy diet containing plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables; and sufficient rest on as consistent basis as possible. Regular chiropractic care is also a key component of helping to keep your weight-bearing joints in peak condition.
Most hip and knee replacements are done because the person has severely painful degenerative joint disease – osteoarthritis. Hips, knees, and ankles are all weight-bearing joints. These joints are big and strong and have many surfaces on which to distribute the substantial mechanical loads which are placed on them throughout the day. But these joints don’t last forever and, like all living systems, they will eventually begin to age and break down. Serious problems ensue, however, when these critically important joints start breaking down long before their “warranty” expires.
Many hip and knee problems are a result of chronically poor posture. Almost none of us are taught how to use our bodies properly. We don’t come with instruction manuals. So as time goes on, the inefficient habits we develop as children and teenagers become permanent. People slouch, they let their abdominal muscles sag, they stand with all their weight on one leg, and their heads stick out in front rather than being centered over their chests. One result is chronically tight and painful neck, shoulder, and lower back muscles. Another result is chronically uneven distribution of the weight of the body, ultimately causing degeneration of hip and knee joints.
Lack of a healthy diet prevents the lubricating tissues of the hip and knee joints from receiving key nutrients. Lack of proper joint lubrication causes osteoarthritis. Lack of regular exercise inhibits normal joint motion and normal joint nutrition and lubrication, leading to the development of degenerative joint disease. When you add up faulty biomechanics, lack of a healthy diet, and lack of proper exercise, the result is a prescription for chronic hip and knee problems.
It’s very important to address these issues when you’re young. When you’re not as young as you were, the time to begin making healthful changes is right now. Chiropractic care directly helps improve a person’s biomechanics. Chiropractic care also helps people make the best use possible of the good food they’re beginning to eat and the regular exercise they’re beginning to get.
For most of us, the best way to prevent the need for a hip or knee replacement is to take consistent, healthy actions on our own behalf. If a hip or knee replacement turns out to be the way to go, all of these healthy actions will help ensure a quick recovery and continued good health from this point onward.
1Singh JA: Epidemiology of knee and hip arthroplasty: a systematic review. Open Orthop J 5:80-85, 2011
2Kurtz S, et al: Prevalence of primary and revision total hip and knee arthroplasty. J Bone Joint Surg Am 87(7):1487-1497, 2005
3Knutson K, Robertsson O: The Swedish Knee Arthroplasty Register. Acta Orthop 81(1):5-7, 2010