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5 Things You Can do to Prevent Knee Replacement

Knee replacement surgery is a scary prospect for most folks, and is very often not at all needed.  While it is true that knee replacement surgery has come a long way since its beginning, it is still a major surgical procedure with all of the risks that go along with major surgery.

I have come up with a list of 5 things that have either been shown scientifically to delay knee replacement surgery, or make lots of sense to educated people who study this area of medicine.  You will find the list below moves from completely safe and non-invasive to a little more invasive and more costly.

People who suffer from mild to moderate knee arthritis should be able to control their symptoms for years with 1-5 of this list.  We must admit, however, that some folks have severe knee arthritis and ultimately need to go see the knee surgeon to discuss the options he/she has to offer.  My goal with this list is not to say that no-one ever needs to have knee replacement surgery, but to be realistic and with some common-sense say that most folks don't need this surgery if they will just take charge of the care of their knee(s).

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1. Neoprene Sleeve - This is so simple and affordable that you might not believe there is an actual medical study to back up its use.  We are not sure why it works but it seems to in the hundreds of patients I have given this recommendation, and a medical study seems to bear out this finding.

You should wear the sleeve anytime you will be on your feet; don't wear it while you are in bed.  To make sure the sleeve doesn't cut off your circulation, measure your knee with a tape and buy the sleeve that fits your measurement.

You can read the results of the medical study I am writing about HERE.

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2. Eat non-inflammatory foods - I think that many of the cancerous and inflammatory conditions we suffer from in modern America are caused by the inflammatory nature of the junk-food we eat on a daily basis.  Real food comes from trees and gardens and lean animals and eggs.  A great way to think about this concept in eating is to pretend you are handing what you are about to eat to your great-great-great-great-grandmother; if she would look at you and say, "What the hell is this?!", then don't eat it, its probably not real food.  A great book that will make you smarter than the average doctor on this subject is The Paleo-Diet by Cordain.  Another great book about both the diet and the lifestyle of our ancestors that I really believe will improve your quality of life without drugs or surgery is The Primal Blueprint by Sisson.  Dr. Josh Axe has a great web-site here that talks about a healing, non-inflammatory diet.

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3. Weight Loss - Although this one costs nothing and can be done with no doctor involved, I didn't put it first or many people would just quit reading at that point.  People find this one quite hard - I think - due to the fact they want to alter their diet a little bit and maybe exercise a tiny bit more and then have this really add up to big weight-loss.  Sorry, folks, it just doesn't work that way.  I do advocate making changes in the diet and your lifestyle slowly, but these changes have to ultimately be substantial and lasting for them to lead to meaningful weight-loss.

4. Walk - This is perhaps the most important, and misunderstood, point on my list.  I can't even estimate how many hundreds of times I have had a patient inform me - while I was trying to tell them about the benefits of walking - that their doctor told them not to walk.  I haven't tried to chase down every specialist who has supposedly given this advice, but the ones I have asked have told me they would NEVER tell a patient such a thing.  Somehow patients mis-hear their doctor tell them not to walk, but I think very, very few doctors ever tell their patients not to walk.

Now granted, the doctor may have said not to walk for a few weeks after a surgery or procedure, but as long-term advice, I can't imagine any doctor telling any patient not to walk; please let me know if you can find any evidence to the contrary.  Walking will NOT wear out the cartilage in the knee any sooner.  If anything, walking will stimulate the joint and increase the lubricating fluid in the knee.  If you, or your loved one, are completely sedentary, you may need to start with something as simple as walking 100 feet ever day.

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You may need to start with walking from one end of the hallway in your home to the other end each day.  After two weeks of doing this every day, you can double the distance to 200 feet or 2-hallway laps.  I tell all my truck-driver patients to walk truck-laps; start with one lap around your truck each day, and then increase to 2 laps after two weeks of walking one lap.  After two more weeks increase to 3 truck-laps, and so-on adding an extra truck-lap every two weeks.

By doing this a truck-driver who is completely sedentary can become quite the walker in about six months time, all without over-doing it, over-stressing his heart, or increasing his risk of injury much at all.

5. NSAIDS - Let me say that I would rather you not take anti-inflammatoriesinflammatories to control their joint pain and stiffness.

NSAIDS (ibuprofen, naproxen, meloxicam, etodolac, indomethacin, sulindac, etc) have a long list of side effects and should only be used after all other avenues have been tried; but, in my opinion, they are still much less invasive and safer than knee replacement surgery.

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6. Steroid Injections - This treatment is quite a bit more invasive than the other options on this page, and I would highly recommend you try 1-5 above first (and, in that order) before even thinking about a joint injection.  During my years of practice I have found knee injections, (with steroids) to be very safe and effective, with very little risk if performed correctly and not used too often.  I can find no research that proves steroid injections harm the knee joint if given no more often than every 3 months.

7. PRP Injections - This is a very new technique so I don't whole-heartedly endorse it.  An old Family Physician once wisely told me, "Don't ever be the first or last to try something."  And within that advice I can say that this new treatment looks very promising, and makes good medical sense, but we will just wait and see.  You can see the results of a medical study here, and read a good explanation about the procedure here.

Now there are some older orthopedic surgeons who will give steroid injections monthly or even weekly, but remember they are surgeons and if it damages the joint, then they get to replace it...  Many Family Physicians and some Internal Medicine doctors can give these steroid injections just as well, and much cheaper, than orthopedic surgeons can or will.  I personally give these injections in my office, but in many orthopedist offices, the assistant or nurse will give the actual injection into the knee...

It is my belief that thousands of people have needless knee replacement surgery every year.  The reasons they do this are many; it could be because their doctor misleads them, it may be because they just don't know about items 1-5 above, it might be because they are lazy and don't want to change their life in any meaningful way, or it could be a combination of all these reasons.  In any event, I would love to see all these thousands of patients take charge of their knee arthritis and manage it in such a way that they never need knee replacement surgery.

Please, leave comments, sharing with me and the readers anything you have found that really helped you to control the pain and stiffness of your knee arthritis; I am always eager to learn.

If you have a buddy with a bum knee, you can email this article to him by clicking on the little email icon () just below...


  1. enjoying-the-company27 February, 2011

    What's the best way to get in touch with you to discuss post-op surgery/

  2. How about boosting mineral intake ?

  3. Boosting mineral intake couldn't hurt. Minerals in the body have hundreds of functions which modern medicine is unaware of.

  4. Anonymous14 July, 2012

    Can you change the way you walk (pronate differently) and avoid knee replacement? I am scheduled for surgery soon.