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Mar 09 2022

Time for joint surgery? Here’s how to know.

March 9, 2022  /   Orthopedics  /   4-minute read

If you’re wondering when (and if) to get hip or knee replacement surgery, you’re not alone. That’s the number one question our doctors at Welia Health hear when a joint starts to influence what someone can do comfortably.

The question’s a good one. There are lot of things you can do before surgery—maybe even to avoid surgery all together. At the same time, wait too long and you might not get the full benefit of a new joint. Gradual inactivity and bone wear can actually make surgery less effective.

The great thing is, the first step is easy: it’s just a conversation.

A chat is a great place to start.

The key to finding the perfect timing for surgery is to talk with an expert. A conversation isn’t a commitment, it’s just an easy way to get peace of mind and have a view of what’s coming.

At Welia Health, you can lean on our doctors to help you find—and plan for—a well-timed joint replacement so you can continue to live life well. (That’s important: it’s about maintaining and extending your quality of life.) Believe it or not, chronic pain, stiffness and lack of mobility isn’t a natural part of aging, so don’t think you just need to tough it out, especially when “toughing it out” can make you miss out on the great things in life.

With knees and hips, there are many great options to get you feeling your best—and we’ll help you discover the plan that’s right for you.

Let’s start with the big picture.

There are a few things Welia Health doctors consider when advising on when to do surgery.

First: “How are you doing?” We really want to know, because well-functioning joints can be at the very center of your quality of life and all the things that make you happy. So tell us.

The challenges with a joint could be something as simple as not being able to get on the floor with grandkids and easily get up again. Do you have pain or stiffness, even while relaxing? Does it take you longer to dress? Or maybe it’s uncomfortable to get in and out of a car. Are you seeing swelling or deformity? Are you feeling a lack of confidence about the joint in question? Sometimes, the pain simply becomes unbearable.

(Yes, there are a million things that could be happening that make you wonder if you might need surgery.)

Doctor evaluating knee joint pain
Doctor evaluating knee joint for surgery.

Then let’s fill in the blanks.

Second, give us a history. How long has your joint been affecting you? A good timeline with specific memories allows us to consider progression. (Pro-tip: keep a notebook handy, and write down when daily activities have been hard, or when your flexibility or pain changes.) Have you tried other things like exercise, massage or medication?

Third, we might take a look at what’s happening within the joint with x-ray or an MRI. We’ll be able to see where there’s degradation and how much. We’ll add in factors like your age and your health, as both give us insight into whether to act sooner or later.

Adding up all the elements, we come to a thoughtful and shared decision on when to act.

Is surgery always the answer?

Surgery isn’t the goal—it’s just one good solution to keep you active. As we consider whether and when surgery is needed, we also explore the non-surgical options that can make a world of difference.

Unless you’ve had previous injury to a joint, exercise, physical therapy and modifying activities are tried and true ways of staying at the top of your game. The simple act of being active can actually reduce pain; in the long winter months, consider Welia Center or Hinckley Fitness Center where we have a walking track, fitness rooms, and wellness education programs.

Strengthening your muscles alone can sometimes relieve the pain you’re feeling, and Welia Health has physical therapists that can put you on a good course. Weight loss can also be helpful if it’s causing joint stress; losing single pound of weight takes 4-5 pounds of pressure off a joint. Joint injections may also provide relief, as well as smart use of anti-inflammatory medications.

Bottom line, Welia Health will help you consider the many good options to keep you up and about.

Northern MN man outside in a winter field
Man staying active walking outdoors in the winter.

Finding the moment that’s right for you.

As you might have already guessed, everyone has a different timeline for when surgery is right. If you’re wondering about your own timeline, the key is to ask.

At Welia Health, we are experienced in helping patients find the ideal time for your situation, not to mention having some of the most experienced doctors and leading technology in Minnesota when surgery is the best course forward.

As common as knee and hip replacements are, with over a million surgeries each year according to the National Institutes of Health, finding the ideal window for you can make a big difference. The right timing will let you keep doing those things that bring you joy.

Visit Welia Health Orthopedics to learn more >

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