Above: Mark Duffield, D.O., OrthoAtlanta, specializes in hip, knee and shoulder arthroscopy and sports medicine. Photo by Isadora Pennington

When the Hip Hurts

If you’re over 65 years of age, you’re among the 14 percent of the country’s population who probably did not grow up attending an aerobics class or taking part in routine gym workouts, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

Hip and knee implants account for more than 85 percent of the joint reconstruction and replacement market, says the American Joint Replacement Registry (AJRR). In fact, more than 7 million Americans have had a knee or hip replacement surgery, states the AJRR website.

About 2.5 million have replaced a hip (or two), notes the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Long-time Decatur resident Kathy Parker is among them.

“I took a fall on right hip about 15 years ago,” said Parker. She noticed a lot of pain, but thought everything would heal as it always had. It didn’t.

Parker said the pain continued for years. Finally, there was increased stiffness after lengthy sitting. Her first x-ray after going on Medicare showed the right hip was almost bone-on-bone. She shopped for a surgeon and finally scheduled hip replacement surgery in 2013, about 10 years following that painful fall.

“It’s the best thing I ever did,” remarked Parker.

The only downside is the airport, she added. Parker must remember to report her new hip to TSA agents at airport screenings and submit to a full body scanner. Otherwise, she’s likely set off an alarm!

The most common joint disease, according to Harvard Medical School’s publication is osteoarthritis. It develops as cartilage deteriorates. Cartilage is that soft cushion that keeps joint bones from painfully rubbing against each other.

Before age 70, (between 40 and 70) osteoarthritis is more common in women. According to the experts, both genders struggle equally after age 70. While the hip is a common site for osteoarthritis, the knee can also produce pain, swelling and unwanted tenderness.

 Need A Knee?

Dr. Gary Levengood, Sports Medicine South; photo courtesy of TGA Communications, LLC

Knees happen to be Dr. Gary Levengood’s specialty. His practice, Sports Medicine South, in Lawrenceville, Ga., is somewhat unique, as he was one of the first orthopedic surgeons in the U.S. to use 3-D printing for knee replacements.

Levengood said he’s recreating the patient’s normal anatomy with a specialized 3-D procedure.

The implants Levengood uses are actually developed by using a 3-D image of the patient’s knee. The 3-D printers (located in the Boston area) can use a CT-scan to recreate the patient’s own anatomy, which becomes the exact size and shape of the natural knee.

He said that it feels more like a normal knee from day one. Patients are able to get up and start moving faster. With seniors, Levengood worries about their loss with enjoyable activities if they don’t have the corrective surgery.

There are about 4.5 million people who have already replaced at least one knee in the U.S., says the AAOS website. The reasons can vary from early sports injuries to general wear and tear on the joint.

 Fixed Shoulders

What most people call the shoulder is actually several joints combined with tendons and muscles to allow a wide range of arm motion, according to the AAOS. This includes circular motion, which other joints can’t do.

Shoulder joint pain or discomfort is often noticeable when you reach over your shoulder to scratch your back or throw a baseball. Patients say it can be an elusive kind of pain, such as when you move a certain way, or pain that can interrupt a friendly game of table tennis.

Many rotator cuff (type) symptoms can be treated non-surgically, according to the experts. Dr. Mark Duffield, OrthoAtlanta, agrees. He has provided orthopedic care to patients in Cobb, Douglas and Paulding counties since 1995, as a doctor of orthopedic medicine.

In addition to his practice, Duffield makes the time to serve as a team physician to area high schools. And somehow finds even more hours to educate seniors on the importance of good bone health.

Duffield said, “Up to 80 percent of patients with rotator cuff injury can be treated with a conservative treatment plan.”

The AAOS suggests rotator cuff surgery can involve the minimally-invasive procedure known as arthroscopy or traditional “open” procedures.

“For involved reconstructive surgery or replacement, an open procedure is required,” said Duffield. For those who don’t respond well in 4 to 6 weeks, Duffield said, “We will often suggest an MRI scan to evaluate the problem.”

While speaking to a group of Cobb County seniors earlier this year, Duffield said, “For shoulders, think about auto alignment. If your car is out of alignment, it’s unstable. The same can be said of shoulders.”

“There’s a need for soft tissue balancing in the shoulder,” said Duffield. “When there isn’t balance, that’s when we start to see the beginning of rotator cuff symptoms.”

Injuries and falls are a common cause of shoulder problems. Duffield discussed the importance of preventive care with his audience.

“Keep joints healthy, so you don’t need surgery,” said Duffield. “Your cartilage is about 90 percent water… and drinking water is important.

Judi Kanne is a public health communications consultant and contributing writer to Atlanta Senior Life.