Why Knee Replacements Are On the Rise

Find out the main culprit behind the increase and how to avoid knee replacement surgery.

Knee replacement surgeries are on the rise in the United States, and for people younger than 65, the main culprit behind the need for the surgery may be obesity.  

A study from University of Massachusetts Medical School examined information from 9,000 people who had knee replacements. It showed that 55 percent of those younger than 65, and 43 percent of those 65 and older were obese. Obese people in the younger age group had as much or more pain and disability than their older counterparts, and they were more likely to have other health issues, such as poor mental health and smoking. 

The number of knee replacements performed each year has doubled over the past 20 years, and by 2030, it’s expected to increase another 600 percent. Experts had thought that boom was due to the aging of baby boomers and an increasing number of sports injuries among active people, but this preliminary study’s findings dismiss that belief. Obesity can lead to knee replacement because it puts a major strain on the knees; every pound of extra weight adds three pounds of pressure on the knees. 

What is knee replacement surgery
It’s a major surgery that people usually undergo when they can no longer live with the pain caused by their arthritis. It’s done after more conservative treatments—such as medication, physical therapy, weight loss and more minor procedures—fail. The goal of the surgery is to reduce disability and allow people to be active again without pain. 

Lose weight, ease pain 
One way to avoid knee replacement surgery is by losing the extra pounds and making your joints feel better. Try these tips: 

  • Exercise your pain away. Get strong and flexible with these 6 exercises that will help alleviate knee pain
  • Tweak your habits. Making little lifestyle changes here and there can help you drop pounds. 
  • Get on the mat. Yoga can help you stretch out those achy joints gently. Other gentle exercises, such as going for a swim, can also help you lose weight and reduce pain. 

Medically reviewed in November 2019. Updated in March 2021. 

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