While joint pain can sometimes lead to surgery, up to and including a joint replacement, not all patients are candidates for surgery. Sometimes other options can provide relief.

At the Illinois Bone & Joint Institute, the OrthoHealth program is such an option.

Two years after having her hip replaced, Davina Wellman was facing a double knee replacement. Wellman, 56, has arthritis in both knees and walking had become difficult and painful.

When she first met with her doctor at IBJI, she was given another option through the OrthoHealth program. But to make that a realistic alternative, Wellman first had to lose 20 pounds, she was told.

“I was kind of mad at first about being told to lose weight,” she recalls.

When she was handed the information about the OrthoHealth program, Wellman thought it seemed "a bit excessive." She believed she could attain the same weight-loss results through a program like Weight Watchers. Still, she decided to give OrthoHealth a shot.

Today, she credits it with changing her life.

The program takes an innovative approach to providing relief without surgery. The program is focused on helping patients make changes to lifestyle choices that have a significant impact on health: movement, diet, sleep and stress — or The Four Pillars.

Kurt Hutchinson, IBJI’s regional manager for rehabilitation services, says the program has been in place for two years and has demonstrated its efficacy in helping patients change their lifestyles and avoid surgery.

“Some patients may not be good candidates for surgery right now, we began to think about what we can do to improve their lives,” Hutchinson says. “How do we reduce their pain and improve their function?”

To achieve that, IBJI has teams of professionals who can help patients address The Four Pillars of OrthoHealth.

One of the best ways to control weight and reduce joint pain is with a proper diet. IBJI has registered dietitians that meet with patients to help them address changes in their diet. They can help them find healthier alternatives in their diet that will improve their energy and reduce inflammation. At the same time physical therapists work with patients to get them moving and help them address their pain and improve their strength and endurance.

“The health coaches work with patients to help set goals that are important to them. This helps people get past the roadblocks that have stopped them in the past. One way they do that is to manage stress. When people are stressed, it affects sleep and can make it harder to change diet, thus effecting all pillars of the program.

Likewise, if a patient is not sleeping well it can affect many aspects of life. Poor sleep affects hormones in the body, making it harder to lose weight. If patients have sleep issues, the health coaches work to develop better sleep habits so patients are well rested and ready for change.

“We all get stuck in our habits,” he says. “Changing sleep and diet is not easy. We will support you every step of theway, but you have to be ready to change and engage with the system.”

For Wellman, despite her initial unease about being told to lose weight, she was ready to change and embraced the system. Working with an OrthoHealth nutritionist, Wellman learned about portion control, the importance of reading food labels and understanding how sugar is processed in the body. Once Wellman dedicated herself to the program, she began to shed weight.

“Here I am, 52 pounds lighter and I feel great,” she says. “And I learned how it's all connected.”

Since losing the weight, Wellman, with help from her primary physician, has been able to wean herself off several medications she had been prescribed to control her cholesterol and blood pressure.

Wellman also worked with a sleep specialist to address sleep apnea, which she says has been a game-changer. Now she knows what it’s like to truly feel rested, which gives her an increased ability to deal with other health challenges.

Wellman completed the OrthoHealth program in 2018 and has thus far avoided knee surgery. She hopes this will continue to be the case. Although she officially graduated from the program, Wellman has continued on to maintenance therapy, in which she follows up with the nutritionist and other therapists who helped her.

“Once you graduate, you’re not abandoned, you’re not on your own,” she says. “I can still utilize the resources the program provided. It makes a life-changing impact that doesn’t stop and empowers you with the lifelong skill set to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

For more information visit www.ibji.com/orthohealth.