About a quarter of adults experience frequent knee pain, which results in limited function, reduced mobility, and impaired quality of life. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common cause of knee pain in those over 50 years of age, and it is the #1 reason for total knee replacement (TKR). The rate of TKR in the United States and the United Kingdom has increased substantially in recent decades, which many have written off as a consequence of our aging populations. But is that really the case?
One study reviewed long-term data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) and the Framingham Osteoarthritis (FOA) study. The research team concluded that advancing age is indeed a factor behind the increase in TKR since the 1970s, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. The researchers also found that obesity is a risk factor for symptomatic osteoarthritis of the knee, and as you know, obesity rates have skyrocketed in the last four decades.
So, what can be done to reduce your risk for a total knee replacement? There isn’t anything you can do about getting older, but there’s a lot you can do to maintain a healthy weight. Begin by switching to a more anti-inflammatory diet such as the Mediterranean diet or the Paleo diet. You don’t have to change everything you eat all at once. Start by eating an extra serving of vegetables and one less serving of processed food a day. As you notice yourself starting to feel better, it will give you the confidence to make further dietary modifications.
Because the primary way for the cartilage in your joints to get nutrients is through movement, you’ll need to become more active. Increase the number of steps you take per day and raise the intensity over time. You should also engage in balance and strength training exercises.
Of course, you’ll also need to ensure your knee isn’t subjected to abnormal movements both above and below that can compromise the tissues that make up the joint. For example, ankle pronation can overload the medial compartment of the knee. Similarly, a problem in the hip, pelvis, or lower back can also place stress on the knee, which can impair its function. That’s why doctors of chiropractic evaluate the whole patient to identify any and all contributing factors to a patient’s chief complaint. Otherwise, the patient may not experience a satisfactory outcome.