Did you know that in 1900 the average American man died at the age of 46? Nowadays, mid-40s is considered late youth. Many 46-year-olds are just launching a career or raising a young family. They’re certainly not going to be sidelined by aging.
We are living longer than our ancestors ever dreamed, but unfortunately some of our body parts haven’t gotten the message. Most prominently, we can point to eyes and knees– both of whose function is critical to a healthy, active lifestyle.
For poor eyesight, there’s contact lenses or laser surgery to sharpen the vision.
But pity the poor knee! No other body part is tortured in quite the same way: twisted, pounded, stretched; it bears the weight of the body in motion. No wonder knees are among the first joints to go. Fortunately for knee-owners, replacement parts are available and the technology has kept pace with demand.
One study showed that an estimated four million Americans have had knee replacement surgery, with the greatest increase among relatively young people, 50 to 69 years old. The vast majority of these surgeries have been highly successful.
Checklist for Knee Replacement Candidacy
So it’s worked for millions, and so you have a gimpy knee (or two). How do you know if and when you are a good candidate for knee replacement surgery?
Dr. Jesse Shaw, an orthopedic surgeon in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, has a checklist for patients who are wondering if knee replacement surgery is good for them.
Some of his questions are concerned with lifestyle; others with medical history:
- Have you had to curtail your exercise regimen?
- Are you bothered because you can’t play tennis anymore, or run your usual 5K without paying a stiff price?
- Does your knee hurt when you get out of bed in the morning, and whenever you rise from a sitting position?
If your general health is fit enough for surgery, you may be a good candidate for this “highly effective treatment for end-stage osteoarthritis”, as the aforementioned research describes it.
A good surgeon will take the time to discuss your condition and perform a thorough examination. He or she will also explain the procedure and answer your questions. Along with a physical exam, x-rays or other imaging tests, your surgeon may ask about pain patterns, your daily activities, your medical and sports history, and other issues that pertain to the daily grind to which your knee is subjected.
As humans stay more active for a longer period of time, researchers expect the number of knee replacements to keep climbing. Millions of patients can attest that worn-out knees are no reason to give up on an active lifestyle.
Generally, if pain or immobility is interfering with your lifestyle, it could be time to talk with your doctor, says Dr. Jesse Shaw from the All-Pro Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Ft. Lauderdale.
After all, if you’ve got another 30 or 40 or 50 years ahead of you, why spend it limping around on a painful knee?