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We’re becoming a nation of bum knees, worn-out hips and sore shoulders, and it’s not just the Medicare set. Baby boomer bones and joints also are taking a pounding, spawning a boom in operations to fix them.
Knee replacement surgeries have doubled over the last decade and more than tripled in the 45-to-64 age group, new research shows. Hips are trending that way, too.
And here’s a surprise: It’s not all due to obesity. Ironically, trying to stay fit and avoid extra pounds is taking a toll on a generation that expects bad joints can be swapped out like old tires on a car.
The boomers are the first generation trying to stay active in droves on an aging frame and are less willing to use a cane or put up with pain or stiffness as their grandparents did. A huge industry says they don’t have to. TV ads show people water skiing with new hips and tennis stars with new knees.
Joint replacements have enabled millions of people lead better lives, and surgeons are increasingly comfortable offering them to younger people.
But here’s the rub: No one really knows how well these implants will perform in the active baby boomers getting them now. Most studies were done in older folks whose expectations were to be able to go watch a grandchild’s soccer game — not play the sport themselves.
Besides the usual risks of surgery — infection, blood clots, anesthesia problems — replacing joints in younger people increases the odds they’ll need future operations when these wear out, specialists say.
If you have a good result from a joint replacement, don’t spoil it by overdoing the activity afterward, experts warn. Better yet, try to prevent the need for one.
Experts recommend cross training and balance your routines to build strength, flexibility, core muscles and cardiovascular health. Also, lose weight as every extra pound you carry registers as five extra pounds on your knees.
Spend more time warming up. Break a sweat and get the blood flowing before you go full blast. Let muscles and joints recover and rest in between workouts. And, if you’ve had a joint replacement, do the physical therapy that’s recommended.