Although the human body has an amazing capacity to repair itself, our joints are surprisingly fragile. The cost for a new hip or knee, the joints most commonly replaced, is $30,000 to $40,000, with out-of-pocket costs being $3,000 to $4,000.
The population is getting older, more people are overweight, and an increasing number of children and young adults are playing serious sports and getting seriously injured — all factors that contribute to osteoarthritis. The total national bill for hip replacements in 2007 was $19 billion, and $26 billion for knees, according to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Those figures are expected to rise significantly in the coming decade.
The best advice for your patients:
- Control your weight. When you walk, each knee bears a force equivalent to three to six times the body’s weight. If you weigh a mere 120 pounds, your knees are taking a 360-pound, or more, beating with every step.
- Go low-impact with exercise. If you run regularly, try to do so on a track or treadmill and consider swapping one run a week for something low-impact like swimming, biking, lifting weights or tai chi.
- Get fit. The better toned your muscles are, the less likely you are to injure yourself.
- Be skeptical. Don’t waste your money on specialized nutrients.