For several years, joint replacements have been the most common elective surgeries in the United States. It appears those numbers will continue to grow. At a recent meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), it was reported that the average age for hip replacements is getting younger, and the number of men getting these new joints is increasing.
The AAOS says that the most common total joint replacement procedures in the United States are total knee replacements (about 700,000 a year) and total hip replacements (about 400,000 a year) and “the advances over time have been remarkable.” In many cases, the total joint replacement procedures are performed on an outpatient basis, with patients returning home on the same day of surgery.
Dr. Donald Hohman, a joint replacement surgeon in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and a member of the Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center referral line, treats hundreds of patients each year and has excellent insights about the causes of joint deterioration.
“Despite the safety and accessibility of total joint replacements, most people, especially those who are younger than 60, would rather avoid this surgery or at least delay it. In order to accomplish this goal, lifestyle changes must occur, especially avoiding factors that cause joint damage. Unfortunately, even with these preventative steps being taken, some joints will wear out or become injured and need replacement. However, this will hopefully occur later in life.”
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5 Common Factors That Cause Wear and Tear on Joints
“The entire developed world, including and especially the United States, has been affected by the ravages of the obesity epidemic,” Dr. Hohman said. “Factors such as the increased consumption of fast food and sugar/fructose-based beverages and a sedentary lifestyle can be linked to chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, sleep disorders and even cancer. Obesity is also a primary factor in the daily wear and tear on hip and knee joints.
“The evolution of the human body – including muscles, organs, bones, and joints – has not accommodated this excess weight of many men, women, and children. It is important for patients of any age to consult a physician, nutritionist or another medical expert to devise a fitness and diet plan that helps them shed the excess pounds that are destroying weight-bearing joints.”
“It is not surprising that as the population lives longer, their joints have a higher tendency to experience osteoarthritis,” Dr. Hohman said. “Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling are the most common symptoms of arthritis.
“Cartilage is a flexible connective tissue in joints that protect them by absorbing the pressure and shock created when a person moves and puts stress on them. A reduction in the normal amount of this cartilage tissue causes some forms of arthritis.
“Normal wear and tear causes osteoarthritis. An infection or injury to the joints can exacerbate this natural breakdown of cartilage tissue, and one’s risk of developing this condition may be higher if there is a family history of the disease. Weight loss and maintaining a healthy diet with antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, can reduce the risk of arthritis and since there is no cure, avoiding the disease or mitigating the pain is really the only option.”
“Smoking causes numerous diseases, including cancer and heart disease,” said Dr. Hohman. “However, many people are unaware of the effects that smoking has on joints. After years of smoking, nicotine affects all organs and body parts on a cellular level. In the case of joints, their tissue begins losing the ability to rejuvenate. Plus, if a patient has painful joints, they will hurt more due to the effects of smoking on joints. So, smoking makes it harder both to relieve the pain and to cure the joints.
“It is no coincidence that the greatest number of smokers (almost 30 percent) are between 45 and 70 years of age and this is the time when joints begin to wear out.”
#4 Injuries from Falls
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention notes that “every second of every day in the U. S. an older adult falls, making falls the number one cause of injuries and deaths from injury among older Americans. In 2014 alone, older Americans experienced 29 million falls causing seven million injuries and costing an estimated $31 billion in annual Medicare costs.
“Accidental falls can wreak havoc on the joints,” said Dr. Hohman. “This is especially true with regards hips, knees, ankles and wrists. In many cases, fractures can completely destroy these joints, requiring replacement, longer recuperation, and other medical complications. Non-fracture injuries can also damage the joints, allowing arthritis to occur, which is the primary reason for joint replacement.
“Avoiding potential slippery surfaces, such as rain-soaked or icy sidewalks and driveways, is certainly important for preventing falls. Plus, being careful when walking in the bathroom – one of the most dangerous rooms in the home – by being conscious of water on the floor and slippery tubs and showers and adding handrails to the tub will help to reduce falls.”
#5 Boomer Attitude
“Because of their sheer numbers, the generation born between 1948 and 1964, known collectively as the ‘baby boomers’, have had a dramatic impact on culture, arts and sciences and health and wellness,” said Dr. Hohman. “This group’s penchant for physical activities – from the pursuit of physical fitness to participation in sports – is one of its hallmarks. Unfortunately, a lifetime of physical activities, little muscle warm-ups and the injuries that can come from this, have caused many of these 60+ year olds to have joints that are worn out and require replacement.
“Future generations can learn something from this ‘boomer attitude’.
“First, healthy diets and vitamin supplements that increase bone and muscle strength are very important for joint health. Adequate conditioning of the body’s core muscles and flexibility training, such as regular yoga exercises, are also very important to avoid injuries, such as ACL tears, that can eventually lead to arthritis. Weight training, for building bone strength which can help someone avoid bone and joint diseases such as osteoporosis, is an important aspect to overall, long-term fitness. Finally, make the time to warm up and cool down before and after physical activities. Your joints will thank you later!”
Joint Replacements Will Continue to Increase
Whether due to hereditary conditions or wear and tear over time, some people will experience chronic joint pain. For these folks, joint replacement could be appropriate. This is partially due to the advances in medical technology making the procedures and the prosthesis safer and more effective now.
More and more, patients are learning that they don’t have to live with painful joints as they may have in the past. Now, the medical science of joint replacement is so sophisticated that many people can find relief from joint replacement surgery.
Do you have constant pain in your joints? You don’t have to live with this pain. Contact our referral line today to determine if you could benefit from a joint replacement procedure.
Physicians who are members of the referral program practice independently and are not employees or agents of THSOC.