Deciding when to have joint replacement surgery isn’t easy. Most people prefer to postpone surgery (understandably). But waiting too long only prolongs your pain, reduces your quality of life, and may increase your risk for health complications.
No matter which joint is damaged — whether your knee, hip, ankle, shoulder or any other joint — the criteria guiding your decision are the same.
Though this is a personal decision, it’s easier to make when you have support from the team at Cascade Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Center, P.C. They work closely with each patient, answering your questions, performing on-site diagnostic imaging to assess your joint, and offering medical advice about the best timing for your surgery.
They put together these questions and tips to help you decide if the time is right for joint replacement surgery.
Have you exhausted nonsurgical treatments?
Though there are a few exceptions, most joint replacements get performed because of advanced arthritis. The first line of treatment for arthritis includes oral and topical medications, joint injections, bracing, and physical therapy.
These nonsurgical treatments usually control the pain and stiffness for a time, but arthritis is a progressive disease. As it causes more joint damage, conservative therapies aren’t enough to reduce pain and stiffness.
If you tried all the recommended treatments and they no longer help, it’s time to consider joint replacement therapy.
Do pain and stiffness affect your life?
You expect progressive joint pain and stiffness to stop you from rigorous activities like running and playing tennis. Then one day you realize that your symptoms interfere with basic activities like walking, using stairs, and bending to put on your shoes. Or maybe the pain is so bad it interferes with your sleep.
Severe pain and stiffness that limit your life are some of the top reasons to consider getting a new joint.
Do you have frequent swelling?
Inflammation and swelling that you can’t control are serious warning signs. Long-lasting inflammation severely damages the tissues in your joint and can cause other body-wide problems.
Inflammation is the primary symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. Over time, osteoarthritis can also cause joint swelling. If medications can’t reduce or prevent the problem, you may need to consider replacing your joint sooner rather than later to prevent further joint damage.
Is your joint damage extensive?
Joint damage isn’t always related to your pain. You could have moderate joint damage and severe pain, or extensive joint damage and moderate pain. That’s why your pain level is a separate criterion from joint damage.
However, severe joint damage due to advanced arthritis is a critical sign that you should consider getting a joint replacement.
Tips about joint replacement surgery
Here are four tips that may help your decision:
Tip 1: Many people have minimally invasive joint replacement surgery
We perform minimally invasive joint replacement surgery whenever possible, which means you may go home the same day. Minimally invasive procedures reduce the pain after surgery and help you recover faster.
Tip 2: Joint replacements are effective and long-lasting
Joint replacements do a remarkable job of easing your pain and restoring movement. They also last at least 15 years, and many still function for up to 20 years or longer, depending on your activity level.
Tip 3: Waiting too long may lead to complications
The supporting muscles sustain increasing stress as the joint degenerates. Additionally, when one joint is too painful to use, other bones and joints take on more stress.
The longer you put off getting a joint replacement, the higher your risk of developing injuries in tissues outside the joint.
Tip 4: Age is not a deciding factor
You can get a new joint at any age, as long as you don’t have a health problem limiting your ability to have surgery.
No one should live with severe joint pain. Call Cascade Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Center, P.C., or request an appointment online to discuss joint replacement surgery.