Don't Let Your Bones Get Out of Joint


When it comes to our health, each one of us is unique. Sometimes our health can be impacted by our family history. Sometimes it’s affected by our lifestyle.

But no matter what state your health is in, or how old you are, at some point you will probably need to see an orthopaedist. In fact, musculoskeletal conditions are the No. 1 reason patients visit doctors, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

“From infants to seniors, orthopaedists treat such a wide range of conditions, that it’s a given most of us will seek treatment,” said Linda Franklin, R.N., outpatient joint replacement coordinator for Carilion Clinic Orthopaedics.

Infants are often treated for something as common as a foot turning in, which is also referred to as a “club foot.”

“It’s conditions like these that if treated early, a child has a chance for a more normal gait and more opportunities for an active life,” Franklin said. “There are also genetic conditions that can affect bone growth and development; obviously the earlier the diagnosis the better the hope of appropriate treatment and care.”

For women, having healthy bones and joints during childbearing years is especially important.

“That’s why the National Orthopaedic Nurses Association began an initiative during what was declared, 'The Bone and Joint Decade' (2002 - 2011) to educate high school students on bone health,” Franklin said. “By starting in high school with a proper diet, high in calcium and vitamin D, teens can better protect their bones. Many are surprised to learn how cola drinks can significantly drain calcium absorption to the bones.”

Obesity is also a major issue when it comes to bone and joint health.

“For every pound you’re overweight, 10 to 20 percent of extra pressure per pound is put on your weight-bearing joints,” Franklin said. “That’s why so many people right now have major hip and knee issues, even at young ages.”

Many people associate orthopaedics with hip and knee joint replacement, and while that may be a last resort solution for some patients, it is not the end-all and be-all joint treatment.

“For elective hip and knee replacement surgery, our physicians have taken a stand and are delaying surgery for patients whose body mass index (BMI) is over 40, due to the increased risk of complications,” Franklin said. “Instead, we offer alternative options, such as weight-loss or pool therapy programs, to help in lowering those risk factors. By strengthening the muscles and ligaments around the joint, a patient can improve their pain level and functionality without surgery. And sometimes after losing weight, the same patients don’t even need surgery.”

With options such as the anterior approach to hip replacement—which offers a faster recovery time—surgery can seem like the best option. But that is not always the case.

“With elective surgery there is no guarantee,” Franklin said. “Despite technological advances, the replacement joint may not last a person’s lifetime.”

According to the AAOS, half of all women and one out of eight men, older than age 50, will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.

“I tell patients not to stop using joints that hurt, because that will only make it worse,” Franklin said. But instead find a way to accomplish what you need to do in a less painful way. Our orthopaedics team works with patients to figure how they can do just that.”

The best thing you can do as you age is to stay active and keep your bone and joint health top of mind.

“Many people think their skeletal system is going to last forever, but it’s not,” Franklin said. “Patients need to ‘buy in’ to making positive changes to their bone health. If you ‘buy in,’ I guarantee you’ll see tremendous changes.”

Learn how Carilion Clinic Orthopaedics is helping keep our community healthy.