NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Creaky knees and wobbly hips are a growing problem. Joint replacement surgery is becoming more common, especially for younger patients.

The surgery can be life changing and the recovery can be an agonizing process. But there are ways to postpone it, and possibly even prevent it, reports CBS 2’s Dr. Holly Phillips.

Gene Lazu is only 47 years old, but he’s already had two total knee replacements. He is currently going through a tough physical rehab just to get back on his feet.

“Certain things you have to do to get range of motion back in the knee,” said Lazu.

Lazu is not alone. More than 1 million joint replacement surgeries were performed last year.

Dr. Donald Kastenbaum says the obesity epidemic, aging and high impact sports all contribute to the spike in arthritis and weakened joints.

“We live in an era today where people young or old want to be very active in their everyday lives, and at the same time they want to be pain free,” said Kastenbaum.

Terry Birnbaum-Horton, 53, was always active but competitive ice dancing and cancer treatments took a toll on her hip.

“They saw that I had necrosis and possibly arthritis and that was very, very scary” said Brinbaum-Horton.

She switched to a program of non-weight bearing exercise and her hip is closely monitored so she can avoid surgery.

“We set out a plan for her, of both nutrition and exercise, that she could do progressively over the years to do that, and it’s worked wonderfully well,” said Kastenbaum.

Physicians say you can prevent joint trauma if you stretch before working out, wear proper footwear and choose lower impact activities. Most importantly you should maintain a proper weight.

“We put three times our body weight with every step across our hip and knee joints as we walk. So even if you are a very thin women that weighs a hundred pounds, that’s 300 pounds of pressure,” said Kastenbaum.

For Terry Birnbaum-Horton, the effort is worth it.

“To stay in shape sometimes causes the problems, but to sit around I think is more unhealthy for your body and for your mind,” said Birnbaum-Horton.

People who do physical therapy for six months after they have a replacement have an 80 percent improvement in outcome compared to those who do not.

Low impact exercises like swimming, biking, and pilates can help preserve joint health. If you run, avoiding pavement now may help you later.

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