Are you a candidate for joint replacement?

Published on July 15, 2021

Patient receiving a orthopedic consult

Are you a candidate for Joint Replacement?

Are day-to-day activities taking a toll on your joints? Those aches and pains that started out as a daily discomfort shouldn’t be ignored, especially if they start to worsen. In today’s society, too many of us decide to “work through the pain,” when in reality our body is trying to let us know something isn’t right. It’s always best to consult with your doctor to find out what’s going on and prevent further damage.

What causes joint pain?

Joints play a critical role in supporting the bones that allow you to move. Although joint pain is common, continued damage to these key connectors can cause a variety of pain and worsen with age if left untreated.

Joint pain can be caused by several conditions including but not limited to traumatic injuries, minor repetitive injuries, hereditary, obesity, and various medical conditions (arthritis, tendinitis, etc.).

Does my joint pain mean I’ll need total joint replacement surgery?

Not necessarily. Having joint pain does not automatically mean you’ll need a joint replacement. Often times, joint replacement surgery is done due to a late stage degenerative condition and when other treatment options have not been successful. It’s important to speak with your doctor if you are experiencing pain that is limiting your daily activities for more than a few days or you’re experiencing recurring pain in the same area for several weeks. Some indicators that joint replacement may be in your future are:

  • Daily tasks have become nearly impossible without assistance.
  • You’re experiencing significant pain that impacts your ability to sleep and is not relieved by rest or medications.
  • You’ve tried non-surgical treatment options without success
  • Imaging tests show you have advanced degenerative disease or significant joint damage.

It’s important to note that some symptoms may appear quicker and more severe than others, especially if caused by traumatic injury. You should contact your primary care doctor immediately or head to the nearest Urgent Care or Emergency Department if:

  • You’ve experienced a serious joint injury
  • The joint appears to be deformed
  • Swelling of the joint occurs suddenly and continues to worsen
  • You have severe pain and the joint is immobile

Doctors reviewing a orthopedic patient results

What are the benefits of joint replacement surgery?

Joint replacement is an orthopedic surgical procedure where specific parts of damaged or arthritic joints are removed and replaced with prosthetic components. Those components mimic the shape and movement of natural joints and allow the patient to return to their normal lives with minimal aches and pains.

Although seen as a last resort when physical therapy and medications do not suffice, technological advances have proven joint replacement as a safe and effective option.  Patients who undergo the surgery and complete physical therapy experience several benefits that improve their everyday lives, including but not limited to:

  • A drastic decrease in joint pain
  • Reestablished movement and mobility and enhanced range of joint motion
  • Greater ability to exercise and continue with activities they once were limited from
  • Improved quality of life and regained confidence

Are you a candidate for joint replacement surgery?

Before resorting to the orthopedic surgical procedure, your doctor may offer a few alternatives.  Treatment options like physical therapy, medication and lifestyle changes are first in an orthopedics arsenal.

If despite other treatments options, you continue to experience pain that effects your daily livelihood, joint replacement surgery might be the right decision. Talk with your physician and they can determine if the procedure is right for you.

Some factors that could determine your candidacy are:

  • Age – the average recipient is typically between the ages of 55-80. However, surgery can also be performed on patients well into their 80’s, if their overall health meets certain criteria.
  • Pain and mobility – if your pain is so severe that it interrupts your daily life, disturbs your nightly sleep schedule or limits your ability to complete basic tasks, you should consult with your doctor to determine the appropriate treatment.
  • Overall health – you should alert your physician if you have an underlying health conditions that might interfere with the surgery or obstruct the recovery.
  • Work – is sitting at your desk becoming almost unbearable for long periods of time? You should consult with your employer about a potential leave of absence during the surgery and recovery.
  • Lifestyle – are you joint pains holding you back from physical activity?
  • Smoking – if you’re a smoker, you should strongly consider quitting to ensure a more successful surgery and recovery.
  • Weight – is the lack of physical activity due to pain causing you to gain excess weight? If you are overweight, are you willing to loose excess weight in preparation for your surgery?
  • Determining the right time – a surgery of this magnitude is always a big decision, which causes people to postpone it. If your joint pain is holding you back from living life to the fullest you should strongly consider it. Studies show delaying the surgery once prescribed by a physician creates a greater risk of degenerative problems and the outcome of the surgery is often less successful when delayed and prolongs recovery.

Asian women going through orthopedic rehab

The Road to Recovery

Joint surgery is a relatively quick procedure, resulting in a hospital stay of 24-48 hours depending on the individual. Upon being discharged from the hospital, you should still expect some discomfort for a few weeks, but that pain should gradually decrease. The majority of orthopedic surgeries require physical therapy as a part of your recovery. During the first three to six months you may experience some swelling around the surgical area, but that can be managed by applying ice (20 minutes on and off).

Although you will be a bit sore from the surgery, you’ll be up and moving before leaving the hospital. However, you have a new prosthetic joint so it’s a good idea to stay mobile using a walker, crutches or a cane to avoid the risk of falling or putting too much pressure on the joint, at least for the early stages of your recovery. It’s important to recognize that while you have a new and improved joint, it is subject to wear and tear so while your pain will be reduced and you’ll be excited to get back your previous way of life—you may have to swap out strenuous activity like running for brisk walks, swimming, or biking.

Keeping your body in motion is important to your overall health. If you're experiencing pain for any reason, please call our providers at Sturdy Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Associates at 508-342-1103.