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Johns Hopkins Health Alert

Advice to Help You Avoid Knee Replacement Surgery

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You've used analgesic creams, ice, heat, exercise, physical therapy, and assistive devices. You have tried all the pain medications. But your joints are still so stiff and painful that you can't drive your car or participate in hobbies you enjoy. Should you consider surgery?  Recently, a reader asked us: I was just diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis. What can I do to reduce my risk of needing knee replacement?  Here’s our advice … 

The most important step you can take to reduce your risk of needing a knee replacement is to lose weight if you're overweight. Carrying extra pounds increases stress on your knees, which are more vulnerable to the effects of being overweight than any other joint. 

An Australian study of more than 39,000 people found that the heavier a person was, the more likely that hip or knee replacement would be required within the next 10 years. The association between weight and joint replacement was especially strong for the knees. There's also emerging evidence that being overweight or obese increases the rate at which cartilage is lost from the knee; extensive cartilage loss causes osteoarthritis. 

Extra weight appears to harm the knees in two ways. First, the extra biomechanical stress adds pressure to the knee. Second, excess fat in the body releases inflammatory agents such as tumor necrosis factor, interleukin 6, and other compounds that may contribute to cartilage breakdown and arthritis. 

Warding off knee replacement surgery is an excellent incentive for weight loss. To lose weight, cut down on sweets and fats, and boost your intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You should also start an exercise program, which may help you burn calories and condition the joints. Interestingly, exercise does not damage the cartilage. 

Posted in Arthritis on January 24, 2011


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Health Alerts registered users may post comments and share experiences here at their own discretion. We regret that questions on individual health concerns to the Johns Hopkins editors cannot be answered in this space.

The views expressed here do not constitute medical advice, and do not represent the position of Johns Hopkins Medicine or Remedy Health Media, LLC, which has no responsibility for any comments posted on this site.


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