How Taking Care of Your Knees Can Save You (Big) Money
Protecting your knees is part of protecting your overall health, and protecting your health helps ensure your financial security.
For runners, joint problems can creep up slowly, and runner’s knee is among the most common. Even if you don’t have minor pain or signs of weak knees, you’ll want to take proper care of those joints — especially if you’re a runner. Bad form, injuries and nutrition can all contribute to gradually sorer knees, and sometimes osteoarthritis. You may think it’s just a little pain to work through, but sore knees are often a sign of serious problems in the future.
Ignoring that sign may cost you, in the form of a serious injury in the near future or a serious surgery in the more distant future. Either way, pretending it’s no big deal is a risk you shouldn’t take. For you, devoted runner, prevention and appropriate care mean you’ll be a runner much longer. It means more miles, more races, more hours and more of that runner’s high. It just might also mean more money in your pocket later. Here’s why.
1. Knee surgery is insanely expensive. Not taking care of your knees can result in more than pain. Your knees might become deformed, or “bowed,” from joint degeneration. Chronic inflammation might also result, which can make knee pain even worse. When that pain starts limiting your ability to carry out daily activities, or becomes unbearable, you might need knee replacement surgery. This is a major surgery with weeks of recovery time and physical therapy afterward, but more than 90 percent of recipients report rapid and substantial improvement.
Knee replacement surgeries are among the most common operations performed, with more than 700,000 procedures each year in the U.S., and about 4 million Americans currently have artificial knees. With an average price tag of $50,105, knee replacement surgeries are also among the most expensive, and the high price doesn’t guarantee better results. That’s just an average, though. Knee surgeries, like almost all hospital procedures, vary widely between states, counties and individual hospitals. Based on recently released Medicare data, the procedure can cost as little as $5,303 and as much as $223,373. Even if your health insurance covers part of it, that’s a bill you won’t want to pay — ever.
2. You’ll stay active (and healthy) longer. While most people won’t ever need a knee replacement, nobody is immune to the effects of aging. However, one of the best ways to stave off old-age effects, including dementia, is to live a healthy and active lifestyle. This includes diet and weight regulation as well, since excess body weight can contribute heavily to knee pain and other joint problems. By keeping your knees strong, you’ll be able to keep running as you age and stay fit longer.
As we grow older, the wear and tear we experience over a lifetime takes its toll on our bodies, and various illnesses result. The healthier you are in older age, the less you’ll spend on medical costs — period. If you can manage to keep a healthy body weight past retirement, you may stand to save the most, since obesity-related illnesses are a leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. This means fewer doctors’ bills, fewer medications and fewer medical procedures overall. In effect, staying active and healthy could save you thousands in medical charges down the road.
3. Bad knees can affect the rest of your body. In addition to keeping yourself out of the operating room, taking care of your knees is beneficial for the rest of your body. Knee problems can affect the hips, back and other common areas for pain. This is because when one or both knees hurt, you will consciously or unconsciously compensate by adjusting your posture. Sometimes this takes form as limping, but sometimes it’s slight and barely visible. Subtle changes in your body’s alignment can result in muscle tension and joint pain you may not even know the cause of until much later.