Is joint replacement right for me?

Orthopedic surgeon and patient looking at x-ray and artificial hip

Have you ever sat on an old couch and felt the metal springs through the cushion? It’s unpleasant and uncomfortable. Cushions are key.

Cartilage is the cushion for our joints. As we age, cartilage becomes brittle and wears away. When this happens, the end of the bones rub together, and it’s much more painful than springs on an old couch.

If your joint pain is unbearable, you could be a candidate for joint replacement. With the procedure, your surgeon replaces the damaged joint with an artificial one. While it might sound complicated, it’s a simple and safe procedure that improves the lives of those who struggle painful joints.

Are you a candidate for joint replacement?

Joint replacement doesn’t make sense for all patients. Only your doctor and surgeon can determine whether joint replacement is a good treatment option. But here are some factors to consider on your own.

You have significant pain daily and limited joint flexibility and range of motion.

If you’re having significant pain in joints such as your hip, shoulder or knee, and you’re experiencing a limited range of motion, you might have a damaged joint. Sometimes, simple rehabilitation exercises might help. But in more severe situations, joint replacement might be best.

Non-invasive surgical treatments haven’t worked.

There are a number of first-line, non-surgical treatments for joint pain that your doctor will recommend. They include physical therapy, injection therapy, bracing devices and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g. ibuprofen). Glucosamine, a nutritional supplement, may also provide relief from joint pain caused by arthritis or serious injury.

Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure in which pieces of cartilage or loose fragments of bone are removed. This might be a possible treatment, depending on the reasons for your joint pain. If arthritis is the cause, and it is diagnosed early, osteotomy might help. In osteotomy, the bone and joint are realigned to decrease pressure on the joint.

If those options haven’t worked, your joint damage may just be too severe, and joint replacement might be right for you.

You’re in overall good health.

Joint replacement recovery requires diligent rehabilitation. The procedure itself also requires anesthesia. Your doctor will examine you to make sure you’re healthy enough for both the procedure and the rehabilitation before scheduling your surgery. Joint replacement is considered a last result.

Your joint pain prevents a good night’s sleep.

If your joint pain is severe enough where it prevents you from sleeping well and receiving restful sleep, you might be a good candidate for joint replacement.

You’re between 55 and 70 years old.

Artificial joints only last so long. People who are under age 55, often find their artificial joint will eventually wear out. When that happens, the patient needs a revision surgery in the future. The latter are often less effective than the original joint replacement because there isn’t enough bone to support the implant.

If you answered “yes” to most of these factors, you might be a good candidate for joint replacement. First schedule an appointment with your primary physician to discuss your overall health and initial candidacy for the procedure. Your physician will then refer you to orthopedics for a more detailed examination into whether you’re a good fit for joint replacement.