If you are thinking about having joint replacement surgery, you most likely have been told by your orthopedic specialist that conservative therapies are no longer sufficient in keeping your pain under control so that you can do the things you want to do. This pain is likely caused by osteoarthritis.
Also called simply “arthritis,” osteoarthritis is a progressive and often debilitating illness that affects millions of Americans. While any joint in the body can be affected, arthritis of the large joints of the hips, knees, and shoulders can have a profound effect on your quality of life. Joint replacement surgery may be your best option to regain control over your quality of life again.
Osteoarthritis causes joint pain, stiffness, and the limitation of movement – which can eventually lead to restriction of mobility, the inability to participate in physical activities, and the inability to perform necessary everyday activities around the house. Eventually, osteoarthritis can become severe enough to result in dependence on others to meet your daily needs.
When conservative treatments such as pain medication, physical therapy, ultrasound therapy, heat therapy, and therapeutic injections are failing to offer the pain relief you need, you will want to talk to a trusted doctor about your options. Everyone is different, with unique priorities and preferences, so this is a personal decision between you and your orthopedic surgeon.
However, it is always good to approach any big decision with knowledge, including knowledge about joint replacement surgery and what you can expect from it. Let’s talk about the considerations involved in deciding to have joint replacement surgery, and who you can talk to in order to find out more.
What Is Osteoarthritis?
Also known as degenerative arthritis or wear-and-tear arthritis, osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints. Any place in your body that offers movement has a joint, from your fingers to your back to your toes. The shoulder joint and the hip joint are ball-and-socket joints, with the round end of one bone moving within a smooth and rounded surface of another bone. The knee joint is a type of hinge joint.
Joints consist of bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and synovial fluid. With time, injury, and inflammation, the cushiony cartilage that protects the joint begins to wear down, the synovial fluid that lubricates the joint diminishes, and the bone itself can become irregular. If you’ve ever heard someone describe joint damage as “bone on bone,” that means that everything protecting the joint has worn down so much that the bones are rubbing against each other. If you’ve ever experienced clicking, then the irregular edges of the bones may be catching on each other.
This explains some of the risk factors associated with osteoarthritis, such as age, obesity, history of high-impact activity, and history of injury. Women are also more at risk of developing arthritis than men are, so gender is another factor.
How Will I Know that Joint Surgery Is Necessary?
Not everyone with osteoarthritis will require surgery to alleviate the pain. Since osteoarthritis is progressive, some people may only have mild arthritis. In fact, arthritis may show up on an X-ray before any pain is ever felt, in which case the patient is in a very early stage of arthritis.
As the arthritis gets worse, you might feel more pain especially after sitting or lying down for a while. At this point exercise and/or physical therapy may be all that you need to relieve your pain. As it worsens, the pain may not just occur when you first get up, but may linger throughout the day, worsening with exercise or activity.
At this stage of arthritis, pain medications or therapeutic injections may provide sufficient relief. However, if you begin to experience chronic pain, interruption of sleep due to pain, trouble doing things you need to do, and possibly emotional distress from the pain, then it is time to consider discussing joint replacement with your orthopedic surgeon.
How Is Arthritis Affecting Your Life?
When considering surgical treatment, try reflecting on how your life was before arthritis and how it is now:
- Were you physically active before?
- How active are you now?
- Have you had to give up or cut back on golf, tennis, pickleball, or walks?
- Have you gained unwanted weight because you can’t be as active as you once were?
- Are you sleeping well, or is the pain awaking you at night?
- Are you able to keep up with your friends or your grandkids?
- Are there things you can’t do anymore because of the arthritis pain?
- Are there things you can’t do for yourself now because of pain or restricted movement?
- How are you feeling about yourself?
- Are you feeling down because you miss your activities or friends, or because you are feeling constant pain?
If arthritis is worsening your quality of life, joint replacement surgery may be the solution to eliminating your pain and returning to the active lifestyle you love.
Overview of Joint Replacement Surgery and Recovery
Joint replacement surgery is one of the most common and most successful types of orthopedic surgeries done today. The overwhelming majority of people who undergo joint replacement surgery are happy with the outcome, and they experience significantly less or no pain in that joint after recovery and rehabilitation. The decision of whether to have a partial or total joint replacement will depend on the extent of damage to your existing joint.
The most common joint replacement procedures are for the hip, knee, and shoulder. Traditionally, many of these surgeries require a stay in the hospital, but more and more are being done as an outpatient procedure. The operation is usually performed with general anesthesia, but you and your doctor will discuss the method that is best for you. During surgery, your orthopedic surgeon will replace some or all of your damaged joint with a new prosthetic joint made of metal, plastic, ceramic, or a combination of these materials.
Once the joint replacement surgery is completed, your goal will be to fully engage in your rehabilitation program. You will regularly work with a physical therapist per your surgeon’s specific directives, which will be given to the therapist.
You will feel much stronger in 4-6 weeks, but you will continue physical therapy for up to 3 months. At this point, you will probably be back to doing all of your regular activities up to low-impact sports and exercises; it will be important to continue doing your exercises and stretches at home, and following up regularly with your orthopedic surgeon.
Other Health Considerations in Joint Replacement Surgery
Because everyone who is considering joint replacement surgery is different, you may have other things to take into account in your decision. Your orthopedic surgeon and your primary care provider can guide you through this process. Do you have any chronic illnesses that may interfere with recovery? Could weight loss and strengthening exercises before surgery improve your outcome?
The goal of joint replacement surgery is to improve your quality of life and your overall health. Being able to move again will not only give you the opportunity to enjoy life more fully, but it will probably also allow you to lead the active lifestyle that will help you stay leaner and healthier.
Orthopedic Surgeon in Naples
If you are considering joint replacement surgery, you are already impacted with significant osteoarthritis and are envisioning a more active life that is without pain. The best place to get expert advice as you weigh your options is with an experienced orthopedic surgeon.
If you are suffering from the pain of arthritis, contact the skilled orthopedic surgeons at the Joint Replacement Institute today to find out whether joint replacement surgery is right for you. Call our friendly staff at (239) 261-2663 or fill out our appointment request form online now. We look forward to seeing you here.