It seems like it was only older people who were suffering from joint pain in the past. But nowadays the average age of people who require joint replacement has dropped dramatically, with folks only in their forties or fifties starting to pay visits to the orthopedic surgeons. In the last couple of years, the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City has noticed a 15% increase in people under the age of sixty needing such surgeries. Also, according to the data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of hip replacement surgeries on people aged 45-54 has increased by 205% over the last decade.
One of the reasons for this is people’s desire to remain active at a more advanced age, according to Calin Moucha, MD, chief of adult reconstruction and joint replacement surgery at The Mount Sinai Hospital. He added that the modern-day implants have a longer lasting period, which can reach up to 40 years. This allows surgeries to be performed on younger people because it isn’t likely that the implants will ever need to be replaced.
The fact that the joint replacement surgeries are a successful remedy for joint pain doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take good care of our bodies. Undoubtedly, all of us would much prefer to stay healthy instead of taking a trip to the hospital. Here are a few tips that will help you stay in tip-top shape and avoid hurting your joints.
1. Running is your only exercise
A lot of Dr. Moucha’s patients in need of joint replacement are in good cardiovascular health, but not in good physical health. If your only exercise is running marathons and triathlons, it is possible that your muscle strength and flexibility are imbalanced. This, along with the repetitive trauma over time, could be the cause of arthritis and the wearing away of your joints.
Moucha recommends cross-training. Rest the muscles you use while jogging a few days every week by activating other muscle groups instead (for example, the ones you use when sprinting). This could prevent injuries. You should also work on building up your strength by performing some strength-training exercises.
2. You don’t keep an eye on your weight
Running causes the knees to bear 7 to 9 times your body weight, Dr. Moucha says. Your body is perfectly able to handle this pressure, and being a runner doesn’t mean you are more likely to develop osteoarthritis. But you still need to keep your weight under control. “From a biomechanical standpoint, increased weight is a lot of stress,” Moucha says. According to research done in the UK, the risk of needing a knee replacement is 40% higher in overweight people as opposed to those at a normal weight. The link between weight and joint pain is even more noticeable in younger individuals.
3. You don’t stretch
To keep your joints healthy, you need to maintain a good balance between your strength and flexibility. Dr. Moucha says, “As you get older, you need to spend as much time, if not more time, stretching than strengthening.” The reason for this is because the older you get, the less flexible your muscles become, and the flexibility of the muscles is what keeps the joint mobile.
4. You push yourself too hard
Doing workouts as intensive as the High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is just one way you can hurt your joints by doing exercise. Yoga and Pilates work wonderfully for improving your flexibility and strength, but by going to extremes and trying to reach positions your body isn’t ready for yet, you are risking a joint injury. Dr. Moucha notes, “When you create a range of motion extremes, you can create bony spurs (projections along a bone’s edges) that may predispose you to arthritis.” This doesn’t mean you should stop doing yoga. Instead, you should stick to what works for you, and give your body time before attempting something new that you might not be quite ready for.