New thinking on joint replacement

Last weekend, I attended a workshop on the latest developments in fitness and physical therapy for people who have had joint arthroplasty (replacement). Joint replacement is much more common that you might think. Every year in the U.S., doctors replace 600,000 knees, 400,000 hips, and 20,000 shoulders. That’s over a million joint replacements every year, and the trend is that by 2030, there will be 4 million per year.
There are a lot of reasons for the increase in joint replacement surgery. As many athletes age, they have a higher need for joint replacements than other people do, especially if they have not been training safely. Others need them because of bad posture or falls, and obesity also contributes to the likelihood that you will need to have a joint replaced. As more people have these surgeries, it’s more important than ever that physical trainers and fitness pros get the training they need.
The conference I attended over the weekend was mostly aimed at physical therapists. I was the only fitness pro in attendance, and I learned a lot. The old mentality towards physical therapy with joint arthroplasty patients was to perform therapy with the patient on the table, but now we recognize the importance of getting patients standing and moving as soon as possible. We want the joints to be used under the conditions that they will be subject to every day–it’s important that the joint bears weight and gets movement in all directions. It’s also very important that the patient gets used to balancing over the new joint using their core muscles, so we make sure that they are standing and bracing their core as they work on healing. Incorporating balanced movements, like walking backwards and sideways, are important for all joint replacements, even shoulders, since all these major joints are part of your body’s chain of movement.
Joint replacement can have a very painful recovery period, but trainers can help. We incorporate skin brushing, laser therapy, chiropractors, acupuncture, and internal and external herbs. You may also try a salt den to accelerate your healing. You don’t have to get so exotic if you don’t want to–epsom salt baths are very helpful, traditional massage and soft tissue work are effective, along with self-administered therapy like walking on a tennis ball.
We all need to take care of our bodies. If we do it well enough, we might be lucky and avoid joint replacement. If you do have a joint replacement, it’s even more important that you stay healthy. Luckily, the medical and fitness communities are working together to improve therapies all the time. If you know anyone who could benefit from this information, please share it!

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