If Krzyzewski's occupation and high-profile career make him a special case among the estimated 27 million Americans who suffer from osteoarthritis, his initial response to having the disease is fairly typical.
"People tend to ignore the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis when it first strikes," said Dr. John H. Klippel, president and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation. "They try to push through the pain and hope it goes away on its own. It doesn't."
Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition. It can affect any joint but occurs most commonly in knees, lower back, fingertips or, as in Krzyzewski's case, the hips. Mild to moderate osteoarthritis can often be controlled with pain-killing medication (typically acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), perhaps in conjunction with injections of corticosteroids in the affected joints. Regular physical activity is a must for preserving mobility and preventing the weight gain that makes matters worse, said Klippel, who is using Monday, Oct. 12, World Arthritis Day, to spread the word that osteoarthritis is a very treatable condition.
"When the pain becomes severe, people tend to become less active," he said. "But as you become less active, you gain weight, contributing to the progression of the disease."
When nonsurgical treatments prove insufficient, joint-replacement surgery is generally the best option, Klippel said. "We should not underestimate the importance of total joint replacement," he said. "For millions of people like Coach K, it has given their lives back."
Krzyzewski, who is now a paid consultant to a maker of prosthetic joints, couldn't agree more. "When I think back to what would have happened if I hadn't had the surgery, I realize all the things I would never have been able to accomplish, whether it's winning a national cha
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