Chronic joint pain? Joint replacement may be an answer
Millions of Americans suffer from chronic joint pain. Although surgery is often seen as a last resort, today’s medical technologies make joint replacement an increasingly viable option for those wanting to enhance their quality of life.
If pain and stiffness are interfering with your ability to perform everyday activities like walking or climbing stairs, and if other methods to control pain are not working, then joint replacement surgery deserves consideration. Knee and hip replacements, which are the most common types of joint replacement surgeries, can help people of many ages enjoy a better quality of life.
Considering Joint Replacement?
Many people either delay or avoid a decision on surgery for many reasons. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions.
Q: How should I decide if I need joint replacement surgery?
This is a very personal decision, and it’s different for everybody. There are many nonsurgical ways to treat joint pain, including medication and physical therapy. If you’ve tried them and are still struggling with pain, you should talk with your doctor. Your decision should not be based on your age or what appears on your X-rays. It comes down to whether you can tolerate your discomfort and do the things you want to do.
Q: How have these procedures changed?
Joint replacement surgery has changed dramatically over time. Years ago, it required an open incision and long recovery times. Now, many procedures are done using minimally invasive techniques and robotic technology, requiring only small incisions and eliminating the need to cut through muscle to reach the target joint. This can result in less pain, less blood loss, faster healing and a quicker recovery.
The length of hospital stay used to be up to a week. Today, the majority of patients go home one or two days after surgery. Most of their pain is well-controlled with improved medications and the implants are stronger, last longer and are better tolerated.
Q: How is pain treated?
Most surgeons use multimodal pain management before the surgery even starts. Patients may have a nerve block to numb the surgical site and receive general or spinal anesthesia during the procedure. Afterward, medications can be prescribed for pain and nausea, and can be taken around the clock if needed.
Q: What happens initially after surgery?
You can expect to be up and walking shortly after your surgery. You will start out in the hospital using a walker, and you may be assisted by a nurse or physical therapist. The next step is to transition to a cane and then to walking unassisted.
Q: How long does recovery take?
This depends on a few things, including your overall health before the surgery, as well as the type of procedure you have. Usually, the healthier you are, the more quickly you’ll recover. Typically, for the first two weeks, you’ll be doing most things at home with a walker or cane. Most people can expect to return to work in about six to eight weeks.
Are You a Candidate?
1. Are joint pain problems limiting your daily activities?
2. Are nonoperative treatments ineffective?
3. Does joint pain interfere with sleep?
4. Have you been in pain for more than a year?
If you answered “yes” to these questions and have had an X-ray showing bone-on-bone contact in your joint, then you may be a candidate for joint replacement surgery. Your doctor can refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon, who can perform an evaluation and help you decide on the best course of action.
Individual results may vary. There are risks associated with any surgical procedure. Talk with your doctor about these risks to find out if minimally invasive surgery is right for you.