Are You a Candidate for Joint Replacement?
Millions of Americans are currently living with a hip or knee replacement. For the right candidate, joint replacement is a great procedure that can alleviate pain, increase mobility, and restore function. Below are important considerations when deciding to pursue a joint replacement:
You have advanced arthritis
Arthritis is a condition where the joint “wears out” resulting in loss of joint space, stiffness, pain, and swelling. Arthritis can be caused by many reasons.
Your joint pain is significantly limiting your quality of life.
Patients with arthritis often experience pain flares described as episodes of sharp pain followed by periods of little or no pain. Generally speaking, when patients 1) experience more “bad days” than “good days”, 2) have constant pain even at rest, 3) are awakened by intense pain, or 4) are no longer able to pursue activities important to them, these are indications that the arthritis has significantly progressed.
You have reasonably tried and failed nonsurgical options.
Joint replacement is indicated after you have reasonably tried and failed other available treatment options. Depending on your particular situation, these options include weight loss, over the counter pain medications, prescription anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, injections, activity modifications, and job modifications. Because none of these options will get rid of your pain right away, it is important that you try more than one option for at least 3 months.
You are medically optimized to undergo surgery.
Certain health conditions need to be well controlled before undergoing surgery to reduce the risk of complications. Examples are poorly managed diabetes, active infections, and smoking.
You are able to work through the recovery process.
Joint replacement, particularly total knee replacement, requires full-time rehabilitation for several weeks. Recovery can sometimes be difficult depending on your particular surgery and you need to be committed to work through the pain and stiffness for several weeks as you recover.
You have a good support system during recovery.
Recovery can be stressful. Having a friend or family member to talk to you, check on you, or help you during recovery is very beneficial. There is a connection between strong social support and good surgical outcomes.