Knee replacement surgery is growing issue that faces about 581,000 Americans each year, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS). The surgery was first performed in 1968 and has since improved in techniques and material use.
The knee joint is one necessary for normal movement as it sustains much of the body’s weight. It consists of the femur (thigh bone) which meets the tibia (shin bone) and the patella which glides over their articulation for the muscular advantage of the quadriceps. Within the knee joint are ligaments which provide structural support and strength to the joint, as well as menisci which act as shock absorption pads to alleviate stresses placed on the body. The joint is lubricated by synovial fluid to aid smooth movement and reduce friction.
The need for knee replacement surgery is usually the result of chronic injury, osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis which cause difficulty to or impede one’s ability to walk or perform physical activity. Individuals usually experience pain, swelling, muscle weakness, and reduced function.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications may be used to reduce pain. If pain continues, a doctor consultation may be necessary to examine a potential need for other forms of treatment. Physical therapy, cortisone injections, other medications, minor surgery may be considered to reduce problems of the knee before the need for knee replacement surgery.
The knee replacement process, as clarified by the AAOS, usually ensues with admittance to the hospital the day of the surgery. General or epidural anesthesia selection is assessed after meeting with an anesthesiologist. Surgery generally lasts for two hours, where the surgeon will remove bone and cartilage and replace it with plastic and metal substitutes to restore proper knee alignment. Afterwards time is spent in the recovery room before returning to the hospital room.
The AAOS suggests that more than 90% of individuals who undergo surgery experience a great deal of pain relief and the return of relatively normal function. After the knee replacement, individuals may be advised that they will not be able to perform certain actions, such as high impact activities or running, for the remainder of their life. Typically these surgeries can last for a number of years. However, over time wear and tear of the knee joint may contribute to the return of knee pain. Activity modification and lifestyle changes may help in slowing down the process.
Although arthritis is typically unavoidable if genetic, changes can be made to one’s normal lifestyle to prevent the need for a knee replacement surgery.
Placing limitations on physical activity, differing in types of workouts, and adequate warm-up and cool-down periods will help to prevent overuse injuries to the lower body.
The use of appropriate footwear during activity or work will help to avoid alignment problems and remove additional stresses placed on the knee. Maintaining good upright posture will also help to prevent alignment issues.
Extra weight places further stress on the knee joint. As Dr. Shervin Oskoueiexplains to CNN, ” Every extra pound you carry can add up to three pounds of pressure to your knee joints when you walk, and even more when you run.”
Exercising regularly with low impact activities will help to remove excess weight, improve circulation, and lubricate the joints. Adding activities that include strength and flexibility training will also prove beneficial.
Never ignore any pain during activity or rest. Stop any activity that causes pain. Any enduring pain should be noted and reported to a physician. Proper care of the knee joint and preventative techniques are important to avoid any need for a knee replacement surgery.