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5 Tips to Avoid Knee-Replacement Surgery

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Doctors are faced with an epidemic of younger patients with advanced knee arthritis. Once thought of a disease in the elderly, osteoarthritis is becoming more and more common in women and in patients 20-50 years old after sports injuries of the meniscus and ACL. According the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS), there will be a 670 percent increase in total knee replacements (artificial joints) by 2030, which may include you unless you take steps to avoid it.

Here are five steps you can take to keep your knee joints healthy and avoid the knife.

1. Weight loss. Your body has been kind enough to match your weight loss, much like an employer offers a 401(k) program -- every pound of weight you lose equals four pounds on the knee. So losing just 5 pounds equals 20 pounds of pressure off the knee.

2. Exercise and strengthen your thigh muscles (quadriceps). A recent Australian study showed that patients that had thicker quadriceps muscles developed less pain and cartilage damage with less risk of joint replacement surgery compared to those with smaller quadriceps muscles over four years. Swimming, cycling, and Pilates are among the best non-traumatic knee-strengthening exercises to improve blood flow and build muscle.

3. Hyaluronic acid (HA) injection. This popular treatment used in plastic surgery to fill wrinkles is FDA approved for injection into painful knee joints. A WD-40 like viscous lubricant derived from a rooster comb, HA regulates inflammation and provides a cushion between cartilage of the knee. Best results are seen with early intervention of mild to moderate knee arthritis.

4. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection: This blood-spinning procedure, made popular by athletes like Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods, is now available for weekend warriors with knee joint pain. Concentrate your body's own growth factors (proteins) contained in platelets to heal naturally.

5. Bone marrow concentration (BMC) injection: The body's most powerful regenerative cells are stored in every adult in the interior of our bones. Our ability to heal from injuries is partly due to loss in the "fitness" and quantity of stem cells, our mobile paramedics. These regenerative cells are spun down in a centrifuge to mimic the makeup of younger patients. This same-day procedure, while considered experimental, is reserved for advanced arthritis and more research is needed.

These five steps, including two you can do on your own, may add miles to your knees without surgery.

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