January 2009 Issue
How to Save Your Knee Cartilage
Simple lifestyle changes and minimally invasive surgical techniques can help you avert knee replacement.
Knee replacement surgery has become so common among individuals over age 60—about 300,000 such operations are performed annually in the U.S.—that you may think you’ll inevitably have to undergo the procedure, especially if you’re experiencing knee pain. But if your joints are still relatively healthy, you may be able to benefit from lifestyle changes or less drastic surgery that can spare your knees, improve your overall health, and let you stay fully active longer, says Morgan Jones, MD, an associate staff physician in Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons estimates that only one in four people with osteoarthritis of the knee will need surgery. Arthritis pain and progression can be slowed significantly by lifestyle changes—especially by keeping your body weight as close to ideal as possible to reduce stress on the joint, and by doing strengthening exercises, "because strong muscles act as shock absorbers for your joints," says Dr. Jones.
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