When you have arthritis or a problem with one of the major joints of the body, the pain can be excruciating enough that you would do just about anything to relieve it. However, before jumping into aggressive joint replacement surgery, you should consider whether it is something that you actually need. Of course, your medical history and overall physical health will determine if you are a candidate for this surgery, but you may be wary of taking on such an invasive and intensive surgery. Most people recover quite well from joint replacement, but you should still approach the procedure with caution.
Finding a doctor who has worked extensively on your type of joint replacement is paramount. For instance, it is rather easy to find someone to replace a hip or knee, but elbows and shoulders require a more specialized surgeon. In some cases, you may need to travel to a different city for surgeries complicated by other medical conditions. Due to the very extensive nature of this surgery and the months of rehabilitation that are required afterward, you need to take a close look at how your joint pain affects your life and your health.
Impact on Daily Living
Your first consideration in getting a joint replaced is to determine how the pain impacts your daily living. If you can get around fairly well and are well controlled with pain medications, your need for surgery may not be that pressing. Patients who are able to take care of themselves, move with minimal pain, or otherwise don’t experience much pain in conjunction with daily activities are less likely to need replacement. What is important, though, is to keep up with physical therapy to decrease the likelihood that the joint will deteriorate.
If you are severely hampered by your joint issues, though, you should consider joint replacement surgery. Often, when the joint is replaced, patients are able to do the activities they used to before the pain began. They find that they have less pain and are more likely to participate in activities they enjoy. Determining whether your pain adequately impacts your daily life is a largely personal issue. You will have to weigh the rehabilitation needs and your own health against regaining some of your independence. All surgery carries a risk, and some joint replacements don’t work out. However, a great majority of them do, especially with emerging technologies, and they are generally safe and effective for restoring function.
Instability of Joint
Joints that are unstable are more likely to need replacement surgery than more conservative measures. Although ligaments can make a joint unstable, such as in the knee, not all ligaments can be replaced. Knee and elbow ligaments are routinely replaced in athletes to stabilize the joint short of replacing the entire structure. In some joints, such as the hip and shoulder, the ability to repair ligaments is much less effective. When your joint is unstable to the point that it doesn’t function correctly, you may need to consider replacement surgery.
Like most medical problems, instability can be graded on a scale of severity. Minor instability can possibly exist without intervention, but it is important to determine how that stability can lead to further joint issues. For instance, a mildly unstable knee can put pressures on ligaments and cartilage that can further the destruction of the joint and lead to replacement down the road. It is important to have your joint thoroughly examined for instability and its ability to support the body weight. This is usually performed by an orthopedist or physical therapist. It is not uncommon to have minor arthritis and instability lead in time to severe instability and the need for replacement.
Finally, no matter the severity of your joint problem, some pain is simply treatment resistant. This means that conservative measures, like physical therapy and medications, are not effective in improving the joint or decreasing pain. You will likely have to engage in conservative measures for at least six months before a surgeon will consider you a candidate for joint replacement surgery. In addition, you should explore other options short of replacement, such as injections and arthroscopic surgery. Many times, these interventions can make even the most stubborn joint less painful.
Deciding on joint replacement for treatment resistant joint pain is a personal decision. You have to decide if you want to take on the risks inherent in all surgeries, such as infections and blood clots. You have to dedicate yourself to the rigorous rehab regimen that follows the replacement of any joint. It is often intense and sometimes painful. You also must ensure that your health is stable enough to undergo major surgery. Those with heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory issues are poorer candidates for surgery. When considering this step in improving your joint health, you must confer closely with your doctor and make a decision based on all information available. In other words, knowledge is power, and knowing about joint replacement surgery will help you determine if it is right for you.
This post was provided by Sports and Spine Orthopaedics, specialists in joint replacement and minimally invasive surgical procedures to treat injured joints. Learn more about these conditions and treatments and ask more questions on their facebook page.