Jogging, tennis, racquetball—a lot of baby boomers have been tough on their knees, hips, and other joints all their lives. In a quest to stay active and reduce their pain, an ever-growing number are turning to joint replacement surgery. Is joint replacement right for you? Are there steps you can take to keep your joints healthy before choosing surgery?
Tips for Tending to Joints
Joint replacements have a high success rate, but there’s an alternative: taking steps to care for the joints you already have. The Arthritis Foundation and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggest being kind to your joints by:
- Maintaining a healthy weight. Losing extra pounds reduces stress, wear, and tear on knees, hips, back, and feet.
- Exercising regularly. Physical activity protects joints by strengthening the muscles that support them.
- Swapping high-impact sports with low-impact activities. Instead of tennis, racquetball, or running, try swimming, water aerobics, walking, or golf.
- Avoiding repetitive stress. Alternating strenuous activities with rest puts less stress on sensitive joints.
- Taking over-the-counter or prescription medications to control pain and inflammation. You can also receive injections of corticosteroids directly in painful knee joints.
- Participating in physical or occupational therapy. This can increase joint flexibility, muscle strength, and range of motion.
- Using mechanical aids. Braces, crutches, walkers, or canes may offer some help.
When to Replace Joints
Even in the best of circumstances, these lifestyle changes may not always be enough to improve your function and control joint pain. If you have any of the following signs, it’s time to speak with your doctor about joint replacement:
- Your joint pain is disturbing your sleep.
- You’ve tried different noninvasive treatments, including pain medications, and they’re not controlling your joint pain.
- Your joint pain is limiting your ability to keep up a normal routine.
- Your joint pain makes it hard for you to get out of a chair, go up stairs, or get up from the floor.
If your doctor believes you’re a candidate for joint replacement, you’ll be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon. Orthopaedic surgeons specialize in treating conditions related to bones and joints, as well as other parts of the musculoskeletal system.
Surgery: Safe and Reliable
Joint replacement surgery typically involves removing the worn cartilage from both sides of the joint. The joint is then resurfaced with a metal or plastic prosthesis that functions like a normal joint.
Over the years, surgical techniques for joint replacements have become more and more advanced, and new and better materials have been developed for the implants. As a result, joint replacement surgery has become one of the most dependable procedures performed today. It is considered extremely safe and reliable. It’s also long-lasting. Typically, a total knee or hip replacement lasts 20 years or more.
At Holy Redeemer, orthopaedic surgeons can perform custom-fit knee replacements and partial knee replacements—an option when total joint replacement isn’t necessary. They are also specially trained in quadriceps-sparing knee replacement, a new, minimally invasive approach to knee replacement that uses a smaller incision and results in stronger muscles afterward, as compared with traditional surgery.
Your physician can help you decide if joint replacement surgery is right for you and, if so, which type of surgery is best. The most important factors to consider are your overall health and how extensively arthritis affects your quality of life. You must be willing to actively take part in your recovery, which may take several weeks to several months. Patients who participate in physical therapy tend to have an easier and quicker recovery.
Ready to Join the New-Joint Club?
Schedule a consultation with one of the orthopedic experts at Holy Redeemer, and you’ll know you are in the very best of hands. Our orthopedic program has earned the honor of being a Blue Distinction Center. This designation, awarded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, recognizes facilities that excel in delivering high-quality health care.