When your knees hurt

Do you still have your original knees? More than 70,000 Canadians had a knee replacement last year, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. The main reason? Osteoarthritis, or degenerative arthritis, which can cause significant pain and mobility issues. More than half of those who had a knee replaced were over the age of 65, and the surgery is equally common for both men and women.

Photo by Anna Auza on Unsplash

Long before it gets to the point of surgery, though, lots of people have problems with their knees. By the time we reach our fifties, we probably know at least half dozen people who have had their knees “scoped.” This is a mildly-invasive surgery where a surgeon makes several tiny incisions around your knee, and inserts an arthroscope, equipped with a camera and cutting tools. The surgeon looks in the viewer, and removes any cartilage, bone, or fluids that are causing problems. It’s also used to diagnose knee problems, such as a torn meniscus or some torn cartilage.

But why do so many people have sore knees? In an interview on Global News, Dr. Paul Wong, chief of orthopaedics at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, described it as a “quiet epidemic.” He says he’s seen the number of knee surgeries double over the last 20 years. For some, knee pain starts in their 30s, for others, it digs in in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. With so many knee pain sufferers, it’s clear the knee was not designed for the long haul. Of course, many knee problems are caused by accidents, or overuse – think runner’s knee, or the damage caused when you twist your knee.

And the knee bears a heavy burden – no pun intended. Ten pounds of body weight means 30 – 60 pounds of pressure on your knees. So the knees of a 200-pound man are subject to the pressure of 600 – 1200 pounds, at every step. So it’s no wonder our knees complain!

Is there anything we can do to help our knees last longer? According to an article in the Harvard News Letter, “Age-proof your knees,” there’s actually quite a bit we can do.

  • Strengthen the muscles around your knees
  • Lose some weight
  • Stretch to increase your range of motion
  • Don’t do deep squats, ever
  • Never go barefoot on hard surfaces

And hold off on that knee replacement surgery for as long as you can. Today, the average hospital stay for is about 3 days, but the trend is moving toward day surgery for knees, so you might as well wait until it’s easier to fit into your schedule.

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