Does knee pain keep you from doing what you love? Chronic knee pain affects 100 million Americans and is the second most common cause of chronic pain. Knee pain and loss of motion can be due to joint damage caused by arthritis. If other treatments don’t help, you may wonder about turning in your worn-out joints for new ones.
“Surgery may not be your first choice,” says Steward Health Care Orthopedic Surgeon Steven Hand, DO. “But if you are a candidate for total joint replacement, there are now many options available, including minimally invasive arthroscopic and robotics-assisted procedures that provide better patient outcomes.”
Should you have surgery?
Joint replacement should be a final step in treatment. Other treatments are often suggested before joint replacement. They include:
- Using oral and topical anti-inflammatories
- Losing weight to ease stress on the joint
- Cutting back on activities that cause pain
- Doing exercises to keep muscles and joints flexible, promote fitness, and make muscles stronger that support damaged joints
- Intra-articular injections
When do you need surgery?
An X-ray showing joint damage is one of the factors used to decide who should have this surgery. Your pain and other symptoms are the main things to keep in mind when deciding.
People who are considering joint replacement surgery should have one or more of these symptoms:
- Severe pain during activity, such as walking or getting up from a chair
- Pain that prevents activities
- Pain at night that hinders sleeping
Will a new joint last?
Experts warn against unrealistic expectations for a new joint. You shouldn’t expect it to bear activities that involve jumping or the kind of stress that would be hard on a natural joint. Your health care provider will tell you what activities after surgery you should not do. He or she may also tell you to stay away from certain joint positions to prevent dislocation of the joint. The limits given will depend on the joint that is replaced, as well as your situation.
An artificial joint will eventually change from wear and tear, even under normal use and activity conditions. It may need to be replaced at some point. Artificial joints often last 10 to 15 years or more and Dr. Hand uses the 30-year knee. A person who is younger at the time of the surgery may one day need to have the new joint replaced. The good news is that new materials are giving artificial joints a longer life span.
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