Those born between 1946 and 1964 are known as the “Baby Boomers,” but they might also be called the “Fix It” generation, given their propensity for surgery versus a healthy lifestyle, doctors say.
Joint replacement operations increased 100 percent over the past decade and are expected to rise 500 percent by 2030, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Knee replacement surgery alone could spike 673 percent - to 3.48 million – over the next two decades, according to a study released this year at an Academy conference.
"Total knee replacement is an epidemic in our country," Marje Albohm, president of the National Athletic Trainers' Association, said in an interview recently. "That circles back to the American way. Fix it. Give me an operation."
The costs from such demand could overburden an already creaky medical system.
"There's definitely going to be a huge need for more orthopedic surgeons," explained Steven M. Kurtz, author of the report delivered to the Orthopedic Academy and a research associate professor at Drexel University's School of Biomedical Engineering in Philadelphia. "If the massive expected demand for total joint replacement is not planned for before 2030, patients may end up waiting a long time for a new hip or knee."
There is no one-size fits all approach to the situation. Obesity and lack of exercise is clearly a problem. But weekend warriors, pushing their bodies too hard play a role, too.
The Arthritis Foundation says losing weight to relieve joint stress and increasing muscle to support damaged joints can be helpful in limiting injuries, combating pain, and adding mobility.