In the last few years, the number of knee surgeries has skyrocketed. An analysis by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that knee replacement surgeries in middle-aged women and men increased 2.5 times between 1997 and 2009. At the same time, a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that total knee replacements in Medicare patients had shot up by 162 percent in the past 20 years.
But some experts have warned people to consider various interim solutions before rushing out to replace a joint. One of those experts is Dr. Aimee Klein, a physical therapist and a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association. She said degeneration of the knee cartilage happens as one grows older but that there are ways to prevent and treat its symptoms.
Here are just 3 ways -- from Dr. Klein -- to do just that:
1) Begin a regular exercise routine
You should do regular exercise which means strengthening as well as stretching. If a person is not that strong, they should do something daily and move towards increasing resistance every other day. I do a lot of endurance work with my clients. Endurance exercises can include walking or bicycling. Sometimes water exercise can be good if someone is in a great amount of pain. Strengthening is not necessarily just at the knee, but also important at the hip and the trunk. If you have a strong trunk and a strong hip, then your knee doesn't have to work as hard.
2) Evaluate your footwear
Besides strengthening and stretching, people need to look at their footwear. People wear flip-flops and they are the worst shoes in the world. They provide the worst arch support. Also, shoes with heels that are over 3 inches also are not good. If you are going to do a walking program, spend the money on a good walking shoe. Don't get one on sale because that is an old shoe. There is what we call 'shelf life.' Shoes are made of rubber and rubber will dry so you shouldn't buy an older model. I say you should buy new shoes every 300 miles or every 4 to 5 months, whichever comes first. At that point, the shoe is broken down. If you are a walker and you are walking 3 to 4 to 5 miles a day, you will probably need to buy new shoes every 4 or 5 months.
3) See a physician or physical therapist early on
If you have pain in your knee, you need to see someone because they can recognize what your problems are and guide you. If you can nip some things early, it will be better. Physical therapists can look at the mechanics and figure out what the problems are and assist you in modifying and, in many cases, improving what you are doing so that you aren't in pain.
For more specific information on knee pain and what to do about it, go here.