Proactive Knee Health Management
Knee replacements are a big business that will continue to grow bigger as our population ages. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that the rate of total knee replacements increased by 86% (men) and 96% (women) from 2000 to 2010.1 In 2010, total knee replacements were the most frequently performed inpatient procedure on patients over the age of 45 (693,400 total).2
That figure is only expected to rise as people work past traditional retirement age, whether it’s for enjoyment or due to economic necessity. The pain and reduced mobility of knee dysfunction can put a stop to those plans. It affects only work and sports, but everyday activities like getting out of bed or driving a car.
Factors that contribute to knee dysfunction include:
- Aging (Being 40 or over)
- Arthritis (especially osteoarthritis)
- Accelerated wear and tear due to activity like sports and demanding physical work
- Faulty foot biomechanics like overpronation and plastic deformation
- Improper gait functionality
- Trauma or injury
- A diet high in sugar and carbohydrates which contribute to joint inflammation3
Knee replacements – not always the best or only solution
It’s natural for people to want to live active, fulfilling lives well into their senior years. Knee replacements are so common that they have come to be viewed as an expected step in aging. Hospitals promote their high-tech joint replacement services and patient success stories to draw new candidates. Many of them are people younger than the traditional joint replacement demographic, who enjoy sports like golfing and tennis that demand higher joint functionality.
Knee replacements are still costly, invasive surgeries that involve hospital stays, post-operative care with opioid painkillers and often lengthy rehabilitation. Like any surgery, they come with risks, such as nerve damage and blood clots. Sometimes initial surgery is only partially successful, and revision surgery may be necessary.
Knee replacement hardware has advanced but it still doesn’t last for life. In fact, the hardware typically lasts only up to 15-20 years, requiring follow-up surgery when the patient is considerably older, impacting recovery and increasing their chance for complications. Most people are advised to put off surgery for as long as possible. During that time, they live with pain, limited mobility, and greater risk for other injuries such as a fall.
Breaking the response cycle
The current medical model is to treat the joints only when they become problematic, rather than addressing the musculoskeletal system collectively and proactively. When people first begin to experience knee pain or stiffness, they start by visiting their primary care provider, who will then refer them to a specialist, usually an orthopedist. There will be X-rays and MRIs taken, but no assessment or treatment of the faulty foot biomechanics and improper body alignment that are most likely contributing to the patient’s condition. The purpose is simply to relieve the discomfort, often with injections or prescription painkillers.
Chiropractic care that proactively centers on the root causes of joint degradation with a focus on body stabilization and holistic wellness can help people manage their joint health before it leads to pain and dysfunction. Those wishing to achieve and maintain better knee health and lessen their need for invasive knee treatments should strongly consider this approach.
Protecting the knees by partnering with a chiropractor
A chiropractor will perform a thorough evaluation of the patient’s entire musculoskeletal system, including an assessment of the foot structure and biomechanics. They can identify areas of imbalance, weakness and diminished flexibility, and issues like flat feet and legs of disproportionate length that impact knee stability.
The feet are the body’s foundation, supporting weight, providing shock absorption and weight transference, directing movement, and supporting the entire structure. When they are out of alignment the entire body is affected and imbalanced, impacting every point in the kinetic chain, including the knees.
In addition to performing regular adjustments to maintain optimal alignment, a chiropractor can scan the feet to identify faulty biomechanics. They can fit patients for Foot Levelers custom orthotics to restore the healthy, symmetrical foundation that lessens excessive stress and wear on the knees due to misalignment for optimal function.
With greater comfort and support, the patient is able to enjoy a more fulfilling life with regular exercise that contributes to better overall health. Before undergoing an invasive joint procedure, it's best to first explore conservative, non-invasive care that includes custom orthotics.
1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Hospitalization for Total Knee Replacement Among Inpatients Aged 45 and Over: United States, 2000-2010.” https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db210.htm
2The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery: “Prevalence of total Hip and Knee Replacement in the United States.” (Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4551172/