Knee Replacement & New Year’s Special

First the question and answer – then special details at the end of the post:)

At nearly 50, I’m still teaching, taking class and performing with a small dance ensemble. I’m still in good shape but lately, past 3 months, have had knee trouble. MRI revealed a worn meniscus, inflammation and a twisted condyle (?) Doctor said I had an “old persons knee” and was headed for a knee replacement. is it possible to come back to dance again after knee replacement, if so at what level?

Thanks for your feedback.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the simple answer is you can expect to get back to your pre-surgery level of activity but without the pain after an appropriate amount of time.  That amount of time will vary from person to person but generally full activity could take up to a year after surgery.

Now for my questions and response:)

I’d be curious (I’m always curious) whether you are having challenges with one knee or both knees.  If it is just one knee I wouldn’t have the surgery (or at least go back to dancing) until you figure out why that knee was being stressed more than the other.   Start gathering details about what you know about your dancing.  Is one 5th position easier than the other?  Do you have better turnout on one leg – a big preference when turning?  All of these clues help to determine what you may need to correct in order to

  • slow down the degeneration
  • prevent the same stressors from returning post surgery if you decide to have surgery

Most active people will show some signs of wear and tear at the knees – especially dancers.  (That is the way one of my favorite doctors put it to me – isn’t that better than saying you’ve got an old person’s knee?)

Wear and tear happens to a greater degree when the alignment of the knee or muscle balance is less than optimal.  The knee is truly at the mercy of what happens above and below it.  If there is rolling in at the foot, standing with hyperextended knees, or sitting into one hip – all of those common patterns will negatively influence the health of the knees over the long term.

We are never too old to make changes to our inefficient patterns and habits.  Being physically active is actually essential to the health of our joints.  The cartilage at the knee that covers the ends of the bones is avascular – meaning it doesn’t have it’s own blood supply.  It needs movement to help pump in essential nutrients and oxygen.  Have you ever noticed how quickly arthritis worsens in people who become sedentary?  We need to be concerned with  following the anatomical principles of the body in order to minimize potential damage to our joints.

I have always and will continue to believe that dancing is one of the best activities one could put their children into to because of the focus on alignment and muscle balance.  I also know that dance, especially some forms, have been taught by teachers who do not understand anatomy and are teaching the ‘it should look like this’ method.

Educating teachers and dancers to work with anatomical principles will still create the beautiful dancers – but without the lifelong physical consequences such as bunions and joint distortions.  And that is why I have created this newsletter and the educational products that are in my store.

My 2011 New Year’s special will run from today through January 5th.  Purchase Essential Anatomy: A Multimedia Course for dancers and dance teachers for $149 and receive either a free DVD – or – simply get $45 off one of the best tools for dance teachers to learn important anatomical principles.  Simply put TBS2011 in the coupon box when purchasing and hit apply in order to see your $45 discount.

Here is a review from a recent purchaser.

“Deborah’s Vogel’s “Essential Anatomy Course” is absolutely essential for every dance teacher wishing to optimize their teaching!  The course is composed of 10 video lectures with corresponding lecture notes and study guides making it easy for a busy studio owner/mom to find time to learn more about anatomy.  Ms. Vogel explains basic anatomy from a dance perspective and provides exercises on how to gain more strength and flexibility for demanding dance movements.  Information regarding Osgood Schlatter’s disease has proven particularly relevant as I am currently working with a student suffering from that disease.  Her teaching tips at the end of course are incredibly helpful and I will be sharing them with my faculty at our next meeting.  Thank you Deborah for creating this course for dance teachers!      ~-Kimberly McEachern, Huntington Academy of Dance

Hope your holidays are wonderful and wish all of you a successful 2011!

Remember to click here for the New Years Special and don’t forget to put TBS2011 in the coupon box!

Warmest regards and deep appreciation for being a part of my dance community…


6 replies
  1. Meg
    Meg says:

    I fear that for a dancer, this simple answer from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons could be misleading & very disappointing (hugely so for some dance styles). Most people don’t have the pre-surgery levels of activity that dancers do! A dancer who is facing potential knee replacement should do a LOT of research and ask a LOT of questions.
    By the time I had a partial knee replacement this past summer, my left knee had deteriorated to the point that I wasn’t able to walk any distance, much less dance. My replacement has been hugely successful (to the point that I wonder why I waited so long), because I can now walk & do some dancing.
    However, I can’t change levels easily, which means I’ll never dance as I used to — spiral turns into the floor & such. I also can’t put weight on that knee — & my doctor confirms that a replaced knee will never be weight-bearing — so there are a lot of weight-bearing moves that are now out of the question. Along with sluggish level-changing & an inability to bear weight on the knee, there is also numbness at the knee, from the necessity of cutting some nerves during surgery (this symptom doesn’t particularly affect my ability to dance).
    All in all, despite some permanent changes, I’m grateful for my partial knee replacement, because being able to walk without pain has given me back my life. But I’m also grateful I only needed a “partial” — I understand that a complete knee replacement always feels a bit like a mechanical knee, whereas mine feels almost like my own.

    • deborah
      deborah says:

      Thanks for your comments, Meg. You are so right that everyone should do their research and ask a lot of questions! I’m glad to hear that your partial replacement is doing so well! Best regards,

  2. Lynda Sackett
    Lynda Sackett says:

    Thanks for the piece on knee replacements. Can you possibly address hip replacements? I have two and fear repercussions from jumping on one leg. I continue to work my therapeutic core muscles and surrounding leg muscles. If possible, please list some of the do’s and don’ts. Many thanks. Lynda

  3. Donna Knipp
    Donna Knipp says:

    Deborah, like the original commenter in this thread, I am in my early 50s and am dancing quite bit and have knee issues.

    It is, as you suggest, more in one knee than in the other. And I think I know why — my turnout is much less on the side with the knee problems.

    The issues include an extremely tight IT band on that side and habitually sore lower quads.

    So my question is — is there something I can do to improve the turnout on just that one side? I am always doing exercises to help increase my turnout on both sides, but is there something special to be done in the case of very uneven turnout?


    • deborah
      deborah says:

      in general with imbalances, I work unevenly. I would have you focus much more on the left hip area for all your stretches, ITB, turnout strength and stretch. The fact that your lower quads are sore is a cue that you aren’t standing the same way on the 2 legs and that you have already figured out why:) Isolate turnout strength by doing the clamshell exercise – and focus your pinkie ball and stretches primarily on the left for a week or two and see what your results are. Do remember to stand in a first that is dictated by the lesser turnout – not the greater, meaning your right leg needs to come to the turnout of the left so you are in a smaller first position.


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