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Fri, July 19

Column: Sporty seniors turn to joint replacement to sustain active lifestyle

You've probably heard it before, 60 is the new 50 ... 50 is the new 40, and so on. This popular expression demonstrates a new attitude about aging among Americans.

"People are continuing their active lifestyles as they age," said Spencer Schuenman, DO, medical director, Orthopaedic Services, Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC). "For past generations, it was different. If your knee or hip hurt, you slowed down to accommodate the pain. Now people don't want to slow down."

This new vitality is supported by the number of people opting for knee and hip replacements at younger ages. According to a study released during the 2014 annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), from 2000-09 knee replacements among Americans ages 45 to 64 increased 188 percent. Total hip replacements, according to additional data presented at the meeting, are predicted to rise 174 percent by 2030.

How do you know if you're ready for hip or knee replacement? Dr. Schuenman notes that joint replacement is a decision that patients should discuss thoroughly with their physician. However, the best barometer for when you're ready for joint replacement is you.

"Joint replacement shouldn't be delayed if a person is in a tremendous amount of pain," said Dr. Schuenman. "Pain affects your overall health. People in pain may gain weight, become depressed or develop other health problems. When your pain affects your life on a daily basis, that's when you should consider joint replacement."

Knees, hips and other joints can become damaged for a variety of reasons including injury, years of use and - the most common reason - arthritis.

Before surgery, Dr. Schuenman encourages patients to work to regain as much motion in the joint as possible.

He recommends a combination of low-impact exercise and, if needed, a good weight loss program.

He also notes it's important to make sure the patient's home is post surgery ready and family members or friends are available to help following the joint replacement.

This kind of information is presented during pre-operative joint replacement classes for patients and their caregivers.

Dr. Schuenman says the comment he hears most frequently from patients who have delayed joint replacement surgery: "I should have done it sooner."

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