Living an active life starts from
It can be difficult to distinguish the normal aches and pains of aging from signs that something more serious may be wrong. In some cases, discomfort or stiffness that interferes with daily activities can severely limit quality of life.
With such situations, consulting an orthopedic surgeon and exploring surgical options is sometimes the best course of action.
Not all of the soreness of aging will require a surgical procedure, of course, but for individuals who are candidates for joint replacement due to arthritis or other factors, choosing surgery can provide a new lease on life.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 719,000 total knee replacements and over 332,000 total hip replacement surgeries were performed in the United States in 2010. That’s a lot of joints—and the number is only expected to grow as the U.S. population continues to mature into its golden years.
Joint replacement surgery is just one of the treatments available for maintaining orthopedic health—which provides the foundation for living a long and active life.
George of the garden
When Saginaw resident George Herzberg, 77, first noticed that his knees hurt, he decided to see his doctor for a check-up. After working as a bricklayer for 43 years, Herzberg was no stranger to aches and pains in his knees, but he also knew when it was time to seek professional help. “I was able to do my normal activities, but they hurt,” Herzberg explains.
After consulting with his doctor, Herzberg decided to have both of his knees replaced in 2014. Waheed Akbar, MD, performed the surgeries at St. Mary’s of Michigan in Saginaw. Herzberg found, to his surprise, that the surgery and recovery went much more smoothly than he had anticipated. “It was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be,” he says, noting that he was actually in the hospital for only a total of two and a half days. “The surgery was fine, excellent in fact,” Herzberg says.
Once home, Herzberg found he was able to follow the physical therapy recommendations, walking at home until he was able to get around fully on his own. “I don’t know if you could get it any better than I got,” he reports.
These days, you will most likely find Herzberg taking care of his dog or working on his garden. “We plant five or six plots,” he explains, complete with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, beans, and asparagus. But don’t expect Herzberg to actually eat any of the fruits of his labor. “All of the garden is given away,” he admits. “If you want some stuff, you just have to knock, and I’ll give it you!”
In the end, Herzberg is incredibly glad that he had surgery on his knees. “It was worth it. I have no pain whatsoever,” he says. And he has a message for anyone who is contemplating getting their knees replaced: “Get the damn thing done if it hurts. It’s a miracle what the surgery does for you. And then after you get it done, come help me spray the garden.”
Just keep swinging
When former health professor Ray Johnson, 77, of Mount Pleasant, noticed a slight twinge in his left leg while playing golf, he admits he brushed it off at first. “I kept playing like an idiot,” Johnson laughs. “I noticed it particularly when I would swing and follow through.” But before long, his leg pain couldn’t be ignored. “Difficulty in walking was the final factor,” he recalls.
Having already undergone a replacement in his right hip in 2010 due to arthritis, Johnson knew what he had to do next. “It was very apparent based on previous experience [that] it was my hip,” he explains.
Johnson says his first hip surgery, using a posterior approach, left scar tissue that he can feel to this day. “It’s like someone putting their thumb on your hip—you’re aware of the scar tissue and what had been done,” he says. He also hoped to avoid some of the restrictions of his first surgery, such as not being able to cross his legs or bend down fully for fear of dislocating his hip.
Armed with research on some of the new options for hip replacement, including the anterior approach, Johnson sought out John Murphy, DO, of MidMichigan Health. Murphy had the ability to perform the type of surgery Johnson was
“He took an X-ray. He knew about the previous hip, and he talked about the different procedures,” Johnson says of their consultation, which helped him make the choice to pursue a left hip replacement using the anterior approach.
Johnson had surgery in the fall of 2015 and immediately knew his decision had been the right one—he found that the procedure with Murphy reduced his restrictions, required a smaller incision, and accelerated his recovery process.
In for surgery on a Monday morning, Johnson was actually home by Wednesday, and he was pleased with the speedy recovery. Following his surgery, he completed three weeks of rehabilitation at MidMichigan Physical Therapy in Mount Pleasant.
He’s doing everything he can to stay healthy and active, including follow his doctor’s recommendations to lose weight, exercise regularly, and incorporate strength and flexibility exercises into his daily routine. “I do what I call the ‘flamingo’ while making coffee,” he laughs. And Johnson has no plans to quit golfing anytime soon. He maintains that focusing on strength and flexibility training since his surgery is the key to living the life he wants to lead. “I can do everything I want to do,” he says.
Stronger than ever
You may have heard of Irene Bronner: Her husband, the late Wally Bronner, founded a little store called Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland back in 1943. Today, the couple’s store has grown into a Michigan icon. But despite her busy days helping manage the family business, Bronner, now 89, recently found herself in need of assistance from the local area her family has given so much to.
While cutting flowers in her garage, Bronner fell and broke her arm. Unable to get up on her own, she waited for four hours until her daughter found her and immediately took her to Covenant HealthCare. A few days later, Bronner received a cast and underwent surgery. “I was really pleased with what the doctors and nurses did,” Bronner explains. “They put in a rod through the bone in my arm, so it has a lot of strength now.”
Following her surgery, Bronner continued to receive physical therapy in Frankenmuth for 10 weeks to regain her arm strength. She was also impressed with the bone stimulator that Covenant recommended to her, which helped promote new bone growth in her arm. “It was very worthwhile,” Bronner says.
Bronner’s surgery has allowed her to get back to the activities that she enjoys, including playing the piano, using her computer, and, of course, working at the Bronner’s store. She still works part-time, not because she has to be there, but simply because she enjoys being with the store’s customers. “I tell the kids that’s my day out,” Bronner laughs. “It’s nice to get away from the house a little bit, and it’s nice to see the children there.”
TIPS for promoting Orthopedic Health
Orthopedic surgeon John V. Murphy, DO, of MidMichigan Health Midland provides these tips for supporting overall joint, bone, and muscle wellness.
Consult an orthopedic surgeon for unresponsive joint pain. If you are experiencing discomfort that is not responding to conservative treatments, such as anti-inflammatory medications, exercise programs, and/or physical therapy, it may be appropriate to schedule a consultation with an orthopedic surgeon to learn what other options are available.
Understand that joint replacements are not one-size-fits all. While Murphy treats many patients for hip, knee, and shoulder issues in his practice, he notes that the decision to pursue replacement surgery varies by patient. An orthopedic surgeon will take all the factors of a patient’s life into account, such as family history, sports injuries, and other health conditions, before taking a surgical route.
Know the early symptoms of arthritis. Because arthritis is one of the primary factors that can lead to joint pain, Murphy encourages awareness of the early signs and symptoms, which include aching in and around the joints, general stiffness, and pain or stiffness when standing up after a prolonged period of sitting, such as when driving.
Consider the benefits of joint replacement surgery. There are many different types of surgical options. Murphy notes that it is always best to discuss procedures with an orthopedic surgeon, and he also stresses that there are tremendous benefits to choosing surgery when it is warranted. “All hip replacements, regardless of the approach, can have significant benefits for the patient,” he explains. “Surgery provides pain relief [and] allows people to get back to the daily activities that they may have had to give up to due to the arthritis.”
Explore other options. Many people with osteoarthritis can be treated with conservative treatments, says Murphy. If those treatments fail, then a consultation can be scheduled to discuss
Practice preventive health. To keep muscles, bones, and joints as healthy and strong as possible and to prevent future health complications down the road, Murphy reminds us to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including following a regular exercise program, eating a nutritious diet, and scheduling maintenance exams with a family physician.
Photos By Doug Julian