Should Knees and Hips Last a Lifetime?

A few years ago I attended my ex-husband’s reunion party for Vietnam Veterans and their wives. Out of all the couples there, my ex and I were the only ones who had not had a knee or hip replacement. We were also the only people with weight in normal range.

Many of my patients have had hip or knee replacements or are now having difficulty severe enough so that their medical doctors are talking about it. How did we reach this point where our own hips and knees don’t last a lifetime?

Cartilage does not just “wear out”. Like everything else in the body, new stuff is made on a regular basis. So, the question becomes what are some people lacking to make new cartilage and why do some people have too much wear and tear?

For a pro athlete, it may be understandable that such a high demand on their joints, plus traumatic injury, might cause some long-term problems. But most of us are not working out that hard! In fact, lack of exercise may be one of the problems, or at least lack of the proper type of exercise.

Here are some things you can do to protect your joints so that you can keep them working for your entire lifetime.

1)   Move around.  The new data on exercise is indicating that is more important to exercise a few times a day instead of going to the gym and then sitting all day at a desk, in a car, or on a couch. Maybe every office should have a jogging track, mini trampolines, or workout stations. At least try to take a walk at lunchtime. One of my patients told me that she tries to change straight into walking shoes after work and head out for a walk. Of course, you may have to organize dinner around this, but putting off exercise for last often means skipping it.  Your joints need the lubrication of movement.

2)   Don’t go over your ideal weight and lose weight if you are more than ten pounds over your ideal weight. Hip to waist ratio is the big key. Your waist should be smaller than your hips-at any age. It is not hard to understand that carrying around extra pounds puts a burden on joints.

3)   Get your adrenals checked. Adrenal glands make hormones that hold the structural integrity of the body, and help muscles to be strong. Low back pain is a sign of adrenal fatigue.

4)   Wear correct footwear. Knees are very dependent on the foot, which has 27 small bones. If the foot bones are out of place, that can put a lot of pressure on the knee, just as a building will not be structurally sound if the foundation is not stable. Self-treatment with orthotics is not a good idea. Get your feet checked out by a professional like myself, or your chiropractor who understands how to assess structure. I use wonderful orthotics that are not at all expensive, and are very thin, soft and flexible.

5)   Check out “Pain Free” by Peter Egoscue for special exercises for joints. There are two Egoscue Centers where you can get personalized programs for joint pain relief. Or see a Physical Therapist or Chiropractor. Take Yoga or Pilates or Tai Chi or dance classes. Starting a lifetime of proper movement may give you back the great pleasure of flexible and pain-free movement later in life.

6)   Curcumin or Tumeric has been shown to inhibit cartilage degeneration. There are dietary sources. You can also supplement. We have a Boswelia complex and another herbal complex called Vitanox that both include Curcumin. Ginger is anti-inflammatory for joint health, also. And good fish oil will help to protect against or reduce inflammation.

Have you noticed all the commercials that direct our attention to having enough money in retirement? Perhaps the only thing worse than running out of money is running out of health. All the money in the world will not make up for chronic pain or debilitating illness.  The human body was designed to move. Look how flexible our skeleton is and how beautifully it can move.

Think of all the joy of movement in your life. Dancing, running, skipping, walking. When a baby takes its first step, the whole world opens up. I want to be able to dance until my last breath in this body. All it takes is to keep on dancing, with a few stretches in between. I believe our hips and  knees were made for a lifetime of moving to the beat.