Utah Woman Avoids Double Knee Replacement Through Physical Therapy
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Lynn Burt has suffered from bone-on-bone osteoarthritis for more than 30 years.
“It’s my kneecaps rubbing up against my femurs… it grinds,” the 74-year-old said.
Burt said her pain increased over the years, but she had accepted this as reality. She said going up and down stairs and standing up out of a chair was very difficult.
“It sure slows you down,” she said.
Burt even quit playing tennis.
“Just decided I was old and this is how it was,” she explained.
Finally, her doctor scheduled Burt for a double knee replacement, but she didn’t want to move forward with surgery.
Instead, she enrolled in the TOSH ArthoFit program. It’s a program designed to help arthritis patients manage their condition through exercise.
Burt comes in twice a week for aerobic and flexibility conditioning and strengthening exercises guided by a physical therapist.
Intermountain Healthcare’s Dale Aguirre, manager of the arthritis program at TOSH, said even though osteoarthritis develops as people age, there are things people can do to reduce the symptoms.
“We can’t prevent getting older, but we can get older gracefully,” he said. “When people start having arthritis, they have pain and the first thing they want to do is stop. As soon as we can teach them to get moving, then we can manage some of their symptoms.”
Aguirre said it’s easy for people with arthritis pains to remain stagnant.
“You get into a bad cycle of having pain, not becoming active, gaining weight, having more pain,” he said.
Aguirre said the program attempts to break people out of this habit.
Aguirre said arthritis is the number one disability in the United States and is the number one reason people don’t go to work. But he said it doesn’t have to be.
Aguirre said the goal of the program is to reduce inflammation, increase mobility, and to incorporate regular exercise into a patient’s daily routine.
He said movement is key to joint health because it produces synovial fluid in the joints. This fluid acts like an oil, which allows the joints to move more easily, Aguirre added.
“If we can get people moving, then that fluid circulates through the joint and lubricates the joint,” he explained.
Over the last five months, Burt’s condition has substantially improved.
“Now I can do squats with an eight-pound ball,” she said.
Eventually, Burt thought to herself, “Do I really need this surgery?”
In the end, Burt canceled both surgery appointments, and doesn’t plan on it in the future.
“I’d like to keep my own knees,” she said.
Burt said she feels like a new person.
“I feel like it’s taken 15-20 years off my life,” she said.
Burt even wants to pick up sports again, like badminton or pickleball.
Aguirre said exercise could help reduce the recovery time for patients who do still need to go in for surgery and help them have better results.
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