How do you Know When it’s Time for a Joint Replacement?
Many of us suffer from joint stiffness and discomfort, especially in our hips and knees. For some, daily pain is enough to interfere with our activities and overall quality of life. You probably know more than one person who’s had joint replacement surgery and may wonder – it is time for me to do the same?
Hip and knee replacements are among the most common surgical procedures in the U.S., and they’re on the rise even among much younger populations. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, there were 450,000 total hip replacements and 754,000 total knee replacements in 2017.
Managing Joint Pain
Joint replacement surgery may not be the first solution to ease joint pain. First, your physician may prescribe therapies or suggest lifestyle changes to improve symptoms, including:
- Non-addictive pain medication
- Steroid or cortisone injections
- Physical therapy or low impact exercise to strengthen muscles around joints
- Weight loss to reduce pressure on joints
- Alternative options like acupuncture
“If there is just a little pain, a little ache, you don’t want surgery at that point because from my perspective, surgery doesn’t make you 25 again, you’re 70,” explains Heartland Regional Board-Certified Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Richard Morgan.
When It’s Time
For some, these steps may lead to significant improvement. However, it may be time to ask your doctor about surgery if you continue to experience any of the following:
- Pain that prevents sleeping through the night
- Constant pain during rest or activity
- Pain or stiffness that interferes with daily activities and overall mood
- Damage to the joint from arthritis or injury
- If joint bones have irregularities, only surgery can fix
“In most people’s lives, there’s a mental trigger that goes off and that mental trigger is that I’m done with this,” said Dr. Morgan. “I’ve messed with this and tolerated this for a number of years and I just don’t want to do it anymore.”
Fortunately, the joint replacement procedures of generations past are long gone. Several advances have led to new devices, more minor scars, and shorter recovery times.’
What happens after joint replacement surgery?
Joint replacements procedures are among some of the most successful surgeries. Still, recovery depends on each patient’s unique needs. Many patients who receive hip and knee replacements walk and practice weight-bearing exercises the same day or the following to speed up recovery and mobility.
Patients participate in physical therapy for several weeks after surgery; some patients with more complex needs may need to spend time at a rehabilitation facility or have home-based care.
“It’s gratifying to see patients return to their favorite activities, from golf and hiking to playing with their grandchildren. I often hear from patients, ‘I wish I’d done this sooner,’ because they did not expect to regain so much comfort and freedom to move,” said Dr. Morgan.