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The Story of a Man who Kept His Knees

This is a real-life story of a 70-year-old man who was told he needed to replace his right knee in six months. As the title states, he did not have to do this and is currently living an active life with his original knee joint.

Well, that’s the short version of the story. It’s worth reading on to hear the extended version as it may help you (or a loved one) save your joints.

This man would like his identity preserved, so let’s call him “John.” John came to us at Juniper in November of 2021, 2 months after the sudden onset of right knee pain. John told us he experienced sharp knee pain when he got up after sitting for several hours watching a baseball game.

This pain was quite high, rating it an 8/10. He pulled out some old therapy exercises and tried them for a few weeks. They did not help; therefore, he booked an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon.

At this visit, the surgeon recommended he get a total knee replacement. The surgeon took X-rays and an MRI and told John he was surprised he could be as active as he had been for so long because his images looked horrible. He was also given a cortisone injection to help with pain relief.

When John explained his story to us, he was worried and confused. His knee felt pretty good at this point, yet he knew his “horrible” knee would need to be replaced soon. He had multiple questions about this surgery and was worried he couldn’t manage his post-surgical needs independently.

We answered his questions and provided information on expectations and needs post-surgery. However, we also brought up the idea of performing prescriptive exercises to avoid undergoing surgery. He appeared skeptical initially but was certainly open to the idea as he would rather not undergo surgery.

During his initial physical therapy evaluation, John’s knee was functioning well. However, he lacked hip and spine mobility, and his hip strength was not great.

We kept in mind that cortisone injections can help alleviate symptoms, and perhaps the presentation in our office looked very different from his visit with the surgeon. We also knew the cortisone could “wear off” at any point, and he may return to his debilitating pain. We presented our exercises as a way to help his body move better and reduce his knee stress. We hoped to strengthen him in all the right places to help him recover faster.

John was very faithful to his home exercise program performing our exercises several times a week and staying as active as possible. We saw him in the clinic weekly to advance his exercises for several sessions. He was then weened down to every other week and is now being seen monthly.

John’s knee only bothers him every once in a while. He feels stronger and enjoys biking 10+ miles. He no longer questions the need to get it replaced. He wishes more people knew about physical therapy and wanted to share his story to help another person avoid unnecessary surgery.

He also continues to blush whenever we talk about how strong his glutes have gotten. But truly, his lack of hip strength was a critical missing link in his ability to stay active as he aged.

Bottom line #1: A strong butt makes for happy knees.

Bottom line #2: Just because an image of your joint looks “horrible” on the inside, it may function fine if the rest of your body is in good working condition.

OH, AND…Bottom line #3: Taking care of your aging body by continuing to work on your strength and mobility helps you preserve what you were born and blessed with.


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