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Why Joints Go Bad: December 8, 2013

Face it; our joints are under a lot of pressure, in particular the knees and hips, which shoulder most of our weight.

“The most common joints in the body to get arthritic, that require treatments, significant procedures, are the hip joints and the knee joints. And that’s because we walk on them and stand on them all day,” says Dr. David Heligman, orthopedic surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

By the numbers, knee replacements outpace hip replacements about 3 to 1, with shoulders coming in third. The fueling force is osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis; it breaks down the cartilage that buffers our joints.

“It’s a very common process that occurs primarily in our population between 65 and 85 but as our baby boom population gets older we’re seeing a lot of younger patients in our 40’s and 50’s that are getting very arthritic,” says Heligman.

The wear and tear that comes with age affects some more than others. Adding factors like excess weight, overuse of joints and injuries make osteoarthritis more likely. There is also another component people often overlook: heredity.

“I think the main reason people get arthritic joints, whether it be a hip or a knee, is primarily genetics for most people. It’s a combination of your parents’ genes that made you, that will tell you how long your cartilage will last. In some people their cartilage will last their whole life and some people their cartilage starts to break down in their 30’s and 40’s,” says Heligman.

Your family history is something you can’t alter, but you can manage the other factors. Staying active and maintaining a healthy weight may help you hang on to your joints.