The quickest and easiest way to avoid knee replacement surgery

When I was a kid, my grandma used to say she could tell when it was going to rain by the way her knees felt. Like many arthritis sufferers, her joint pain got worse on damp days.

Eventually, she decided she didn’t want to live with stiff, painful knees anymore. So, she got knee replacement surgery. But the healing process from surgery was excruciating…

She couldn’t care for herself for six weeks. And it took close to six months for her to fully recover. Joint replacement surgery is no joke.

Read: What you need to know about blood thinners before knee surgery

If you’re already experiencing the signs of arthritis, you’re probably afraid this excruciating surgery is somewhere in your future. But it doesn’t have to be.

There’s something you can do today to decrease your odds of ever needing knee replacement surgery. And it only takes five to ten minutes!

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Walk away from knee replacement surgery

A study from researchers at the University of Delaware in Newark found that people who have osteoarthritis in their knees (or are at high-risk for it) can reduce their risk of knee replacement surgery in the years to come by doing something so simple…

Walking more.

The study included 1,854 people who had their walking habits monitored for five years. And they noticed something pretty cool for people with arthritic knees…

Replacing five minutes of non-walking time with five minutes of moderate to vigorous walking per day reduced the chance of having knee replacement surgery by 16 percent.

This simple walking swap worked for radiographic osteoarthritis (the kind that shows up in x-rays but doesn’t cause symptoms) and symptomatic arthritis.

The bad news is, it didn’t work when people did their walking at a lighter pace. They had to walk at a moderate to vigorous pace to reduce their risk of surgery.

But hey… most people can handle moderate to vigorous walking for five to ten minutes. And that’s all it takes to make a sizable dent in your risk for knee surgery.

Starting your walking practice

Now, I know the last thing you want to do when you have arthritis in your knees is go for a brisk walk. And I’m not going to sugarcoat it, starting a vigorous walking practice will be painful at first. But it will help you in the long run.

Not only will it reduce your risk of knee replacement surgery in the future, but it will improve your knee pain in the present. That’s because walking helps rebuild your joints. It also strengthens your muscles, which means less pressure on your joints. Plus, it helps you lose weight, which also takes pressure off your joints.

If you’ve ever heard that regular walking (or other forms of exercise) will make your knee arthritis worse, don’t believe it. A 2009 study published in Canada Family Physician, shows that exercise does not cause knee osteoarthritis to progress. In fact, people who exercise have less pain and disability.

Of course, be careful not overdo it. If you feel unstable, experience sudden swelling or have major pain that makes it impossible to stand on one leg, stop exercising.

It’s common sense really. A little bit of stiffness and discomfort is normal. But extreme pain and swelling is a sign your exercise routine went awry. To prevent this from happening, start out slow and gradually work your way up to a quicker walking speed and more time on your feet. Eventually, you’ll see substantial improvements in your knee pain… and hopefully, a reduced risk of surgery.

Sources:

  1. ACR: walking each day may cut risk for TKA over five years — MedicalXpress
  2. Exercise and knee osteoarthritis: benefit or hazard?Canadian Family Physician
  3. Walking to Ease Knee Pain — WebMD
  4. Building a Walking Workout — Arthritis Foundation
  5. Daily walking and the risk of incident functional limitation in knee OA: An observational studyArthritis Care & Research

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.