Stopping at Nothing: A 69-Year-Old BMX Racer Overcomes Her Joint Pain

(BPT) - Ever since her 20s, Kittie Weston-Knauer had experienced osteoarthritis (OA) pain in her hips and knees, but it never stopped her from staying active. In her 40s, she even picked up a new, exciting hobby: BMX, or bicycle motocross racing. Gradually though, despite her active lifestyle, the joint pain increased to the point where, in her 60s, even every day activities, like getting out of bed became nearly impossible.

As Kittie’s physical pain grew, it was compounded by emotional pain as she hit a breaking point: realizing she was living her life “on pause” and that joint pain was keeping her from doing the things she loved.

“Pain messes with the mind,” says the now 69-year-old Kittie. “I’ve always been an extreme athlete, and I didn’t want the pain to slow me down. I had been racing BMX for the last 27 years so I wasn’t about to allow the pain to keep me from having fun. I knew I could no longer continue living my life that way.”

As people age, the body changes in ways that many don’t anticipate. These changes, including the “aging” of joints, can cause individuals to feel “young at heart but old of joint.” This feeling may be a result of OA, the most common form of arthritis that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affects nearly 27 million U.S. adults. The CDC estimates that 1 in 2 people will be affected by some form of OA in their lifetime.

Despite OA being one of the most common reasons for severe hip or knee pain that can lead to joint replacement surgery, many experience joint pain that is so debilitating it negatively impacts their quality of life, making hobbies or everyday activities more time consuming, strenuous and overwhelming.

A recent online survey, commissioned by DePuy Synthes, of 500 U.S. women aged 45-65 who had hip or knee replacement surgery or plan to have surgery soon, found that most women live with significant hip or knee pain almost every day often for five years or more before opting for surgery. And nearly all women surveyed who received a hip or knee replacement within the last five years felt their life was “on pause” prior to surgery.

For Kittie, she knew what she had to do next. She spoke with a team of healthcare professionals about her options, and together they decided to replace both of her hips and knees within the year. Now that Kittie has undergone joint replacement surgery, she has “hit play” on the activities she loves.

“It’s a whole new world out there,” Kittie says. “There isn’t anything that I can’t do in terms of movement: squatting, exercising and BMX racing. The surgery made a difference. I can now do what I like to do.”

Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. William Barrett, Medical Director for the Joint Center at Valley Medical Center in Renton, WA, notes that if you are a woman who’s suffering from joint pain, be sure to take steps to manage your discomfort. “Speak to a doctor who can help you identify the best treatment for your hip or knee pain. Treatment for osteoarthritis will vary based on one’s level of pain and immobility but may include physical therapy, pain medications, or joint replacement surgery,” says Dr. Barrett.

These tips may help:

* Simple at-home exercises may potentially help in relieving the pain. For example, stand upright with your back against a wall and feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly bend your knees, sliding your back down the wall. Hold the position for five seconds, then slowly slide back up the wall. Repeat 10 times. Make it a habit to incorporate simple exercises like these into your daily routine.

* It’s easy for joints to get stiff when you’re sedentary, so make it a point to stay active when possible. You can incorporate extra activity into your day by getting up for a lap around the office every hour or parking your car farther away from your final destination.

It’s important to remember that the performance of hip or knee replacements depends on age, weight, activity level and other factors. There are potential risks and recovery takes time. People with conditions limiting rehabilitation should not have these surgeries. Only an orthopaedic surgeon can determine if hip or knee replacement is necessary based on an individual patient's condition.

To learn more about potential treatment options for hip and knee pain as well as helpful resources, visit www.timetohitplay.com.

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