How do you know when to continue to grin and bear the pain, or take the leap to surgery? That’s a common question orthopaedic doctors get from their patients.
You probably know someone who has had a joint replaced. Maybe you’re wondering if it’s time for joint replacement yourself. How do you know when to continue to grin and bear the pain, or take the leap to surgery? That’s a common question orthopaedic doctors get from their patients.
Arthritis is one of the most common causes of disability among adults. As many as one in five U.S. adults has been diagnosed with arthritis, and even more go undiagnosed. And because people with arthritis report significantly worse quality of life than those without arthritis, it’s no wonder that nearly half a million people opt for joint replacement surgery each year due to arthritis.
“The decision to have major surgery is not to be entered into lightly,” said Cyna Khalily, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon with Norton Orthopaedic Specialists – Downtown, who performs more than 200 knee replacement surgeries each year. “However, for someone who enjoys being active and pain is affecting their quality of life, it may actually be an easy decision.”
Signs you might be ready for joint replacement
- You’ve tried anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy and steroid injections
- Pain is keeping you from doing the things you enjoy
- Your joint stiffens up after sitting for a period of time
- You have a decrease in how much you are able to bend or move the joint
- Pain prevents you from getting a good night’s rest
- You feel a “grating” in your joint
- Your joint is swollen or leg is becoming bowed
- You have had previous injury to your knee or hip
“Today’s replacement techniques have less pain and a quicker recovery than joint replacements of even a decade ago,” said Jonathan Yerasimides, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon with Norton Orthopaedic Specialists – Brownsboro, who specializes in hip replacement. “Hip replacement, especially using an anterior approach technique, where less muscle is cut, is much less invasive and has very successful results. These procedures truly can be life-changing.”
Other points to consider before surgery:
- Do you have help at home while you recover? For a few weeks, you will need some assistance with getting dressed and going about your daily life.
- Are you committed to making changes? For the best result, you do have to put in some work with physical therapy before and after surgery. Also, keeping your weight in check and getting daily exercise will keep your new joint working well in the years to come.
“For patients who have an active lifestyle and want to get back to it, after knee replacement they should expect to be able to return to doing the same things they enjoyed before with a little physical therapy and time,” Dr. Khalily said.
“Within four to six weeks after hip replacement, the patient should be able to ride a stationary bike, walk 1 to 2 miles without stopping or be able to play golf,” Dr. Yerasimides said. “A person can expect to get 15 to 20 years from their artificial hip.”
Joint replacement is a big decision, and your orthopaedic doctor will help you make the right decision. If you haven’t talked to an orthopaedic doctor or haven’t yet tried all available nonsurgical treatments, that’s your starting point.
The bottom line is people are living longer and staying active longer. If joint replacement seems inevitable, don’t put it off. Decreased activity leads to lost physical fitness and muscle tone, which leads to missing out on the things you love. And that has a psychological effect as well. All of these factors can hamper recovery after surgery.
Finally, knees and hips are not the only joints that can be replaced. Shoulders, elbows, wrists and even ankles can be replaced. If you have had no luck managing pain in those joints, there could be help for you, too.
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