Are You Suffering in Silence? Why Your Back and Neck Problems Might Indicate a Chronic Injury

Arthroscopic knee surgery

Americans are living longer than ever before: in the last century, life expectancy has increased from about 40 years to more than 75 years. Advances in nutrition, medicine, and technology are keeping us safer and better fed, but our rates of heart disease — due in part to processed foods that are high in sugar and fat — still outstrip those of many developing countries.

Thankfully, modern doctors have a wide range of techniques available to treat heart disease, shoulder and knee injuries, and injuries due to repetitive motion or habitual stress. More than 7 million people make appointments every year for shoulder injuries, and doctors who practice sports medicine are noticing more high school athletes who have acquired repetitive motion injuries and sprains to their arms and shoulders.

Older adults are more likely to incur foot, leg, and ankle injuries; sports injuries are still common, but chronic neck, back, hip, and knee problems are more likely to surface as people age. In fact, recent orthopaedics surveys indicate that the number of knee surgeries has doubled in the last 10 years: more than 600,000 American adults contract for arthroscopic knee surgery every year.

The technology for hip and knee replacements is significantly more advanced than it was even a decade ago, but they still come with a warranty. In general, an artificial knee should work well for more than 15 years, but patients who go in for knee surgery due to sports injuries or long-term wear and tear on their joints should realize that they may have to have the same surgery at a later point in time.

The treatment for heart disease has also evolved considerably in the last 10 years, and while doctors may recommend that heart patients exercise in moderation to prevent sports injuries and overexertion, exercise is still an essential part of most preventative treatment programs for heart disease. Changing a high-fat, high-calorie diet to a more healthy one is also typically part of long-term heart patient care.

About one in every ten American seniors in their 80s has had a knee replacement, and typically an orthopedic surgeon can help patients determine whether they are good candidates for surgery. Sports medicine doctors, also, may make referrals for patients whose injuries are not responding properly to rest and physical therapy. There are more people in America who have undergone knee or hip replacement than there are people who are getting treated for heart disease: more than 2.5 million people have had complete hip replacements in this country alone.

Struggling with chronic pain due to participation in sports? A sports medicine doctor may be the perfect first step for pain relief and overall evaluation of joint and muscle condition. If a student athlete reports chronic pain despite staying hydrated and stretching before and after games, it may be time to schedule a visit to a sports medicine doctor to evaluate the condition of the student’s hip, knees, and shoulders. People who are able to treat chronic sports injuries before they develop into serious problems should be able to schedule surgery more quickly, if necessary.

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