When it comes time to consider a hip or knee joint replacement, you are most likely in pain. Or maybe you are trying to be strong, taking medications and fighting the urge to complain. Whatever you are facing, there comes a time when you need to decide how long this pain can last.
Scott & White orthopedist Bryce Allen, MD, highlights the key points of joint replacements and what you need to know. Dr. Allen performs a number of joint replacements for patients in the Temple area, who trust his expertise, find relief, feel significantly better, and wish they would have committed to the procedure sooner.
What You May Be Feeling
Pain is the most common reason to have a hip or knee replacement. You may also feel stiffness, swelling, giving-out, deformity – all of these things may be present and may be troubling you.
“The number one reason for a joint replacement is pain that prevents the individual from doing the activities that are important to them, or even the activities necessary for daily life,” Dr. Allen said.
You may have a nagging pain that makes you less likely to go to out to dinner with friends, or a severe pain that makes it impossible to keep up with work, housework, or even personal hygiene. If this is familiar to you, you may need to take action as the pain is impacting your everyday life.
What You May Have Tried
Many non-operative options are available for treatment of the pain associated with degeneration of the hip and knee.
Dr. Allen explains some measures people take to alleviate the pain:
- Pain medications (Tylenol) and anti-inflammatory medications (Ibuprofen, Aleve, Celebrex) are often the first line of defense.
- Physical therapy, activity modification (avoiding activities that aggravate the joint), and weight loss have been shown to be effective at managing the symptoms.
- For knees, wearing a brace might be effective to take some of the strain off of the knee.
- Injections of either cortisone or a lubricating gel can offer relief for periods of weeks to months.
“When the pain from arthritis prevents the individual from doing the activities that are necessary or important to them despite these measures, or if these measures are not tolerated, then it is time to consider more aggressive treatment, such as hip or knee replacement,” Dr. Allen said.
Why You May Need a Joint Replacement
Dr. Allen outlines three main reasons to consider a joint replacement: Pain relief, activity and independence.
1. Pain Relief
“Pain relief is the biggest one,” Dr. Allen said. “People with degeneration of the joints know what it means to live with pain every day. Often, joint replacement surgery can reduce or eliminate pain that has been a constant companion for years.”
“Activity is often just as important,” Dr. Allen said. “I often hear patients say that if they sit around and do nothing, then their knee or hip doesn’t hurt. But they don’t want to sit around and do nothing.”
Do you want to get out and garden, golf, work, bowl, travel, hike and keep up with their kids or grandkids? Joint replacement can often restore your ability to pursue these types of activities so you don’t have to sit around and do nothing.
Finally, severe arthritis can limit independence.
“Not being able to be active and do things for themselves is often unacceptable to people who have spent their lives taking care of themselves and others,” Dr. Allen said.
If you’d like restore a sense of independence, joint replacement can help as your mobility starts to decline and you find yourself asking family members or others for help.
What You Can Expect with Joint Replacement Surgery
Considering surgery is certainly a big decision, but there are classes available and advanced technologies to make it as seamless as possible.
First, Scott & White offers patient education sessions called “Joint Camp” that you can attend before surgery. As you listen to nurses, physical therapists and staff, they will guide you to know what to expect before, during and after surgery. All of your questions can be answered in this class so you can feel confident with your goals and expectations moving forward.
Another benefit of joint replacement at Scott & White is having the most advanced materials and techniques. In recent years this field has made adjustments to make the replacements more comfortable and reliable over many years to come.
“Hip and knee replacement are two of the most successful and reliable surgeries available,” Dr. Allen said. “One can reasonably expect greater than 90% good and excellent results, and the vast majority of patients are satisfied with the surgery once they are all healed up.”
When the Pain has Reached Your Breaking Point
You may be debating about joint replacement surgery, going back and forth in your mind. Certainly there is a cost and demanding recovery, however, “While the cost of the procedure may be considerable, the relief of pain that may allow the patient to return to work, recreational activity, and independent living is priceless,” Dr. Allen said.
To move towards a pain-free, active, and independent life, find a surgeon that you can identify with and that you trust.
“There are many different implants and techniques,” Dr. Allen said. “But if you trust that your surgeon has the experience, skill, and has your best interests in mind, then you can approach the surgery with confidence.”