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If you’re suffering from that deep ache in your leg joints and sometimes feel like a human barometer, you may be cringing at the thought of becoming a “bionic” man or woman who sets off every airport metal detector. We probably all know someone with an artificial joint or two, which isn’t surprising when you look at the numbers:

According to the CDC, 332,000 hip replacements and 719,000 knee replacements were performed in the US in 2010. For various reasons these numbers have been steadily increasing for both procedures in recent decades (see OECDiLibrary) along with associated healthcare costs. Between 1997 and 2009, the number of knee replacements increased by 84%!

So…joint replacements for arthritis…are they inevitable?

A recent study done in Norway suggests they are not.

When 109 individuals with mild to moderate hip arthritis were randomly divided into an education-only group vs an education + exercise group (completing at least 20 physical therapy sessions in 12 weeks), they found some impressive results.

The participants were tracked for 6 years, and in the end 44% fewer hip replacements were performed on those who did supervised exercise with a PT, vs only receiving education. The members of the exercise group who did ultimately have a hip replacement had much better surgical outcomes (less pain and better function) than those with education alone. These results are supported by previous studies done to test the preventative impact of PT on hip and knee replacements.

The results of this study indicate not only the importance of exercise for individuals with hip arthritis, but also the crucial need for individualized coaching by a PT. It also reinforces what we know from previous studies regarding the benefits of “prehabilitation” to improve outcomes after a hip or knee replacement surgery.

While cases of severe hip arthritis were excluded in this study, it is likely that receiving treatment in the early stages will increase the likelihood of preventing surgery. So if you are developing symptoms of arthritis, don’t wait to seek treatment. Come see us soon so we can do for you what we do best: keep you moving and doing the things you love!