When is the right time for a joint replacement?

The orthopedic community reports that in 2017, around 1 million hip and knee replacement procedures were performed in the United States. While there are cases of hip and knee replacement surgeries for adults in their 90’s, the average age is 66. Many of us are destined for joint replacement as we age, but how do you know when the time is right? The information found here can help you decide.

Like many of my 65-year+ counterparts, I have been diligent in staying active over my lifetime. Over the years, continuous wear and tear on my joints has resulted in stiffness and joint aches. In the past 6 months, I have started to notice pain in activities like my MARTA commute, stairs, and longer walks with my dog. Recently, this pain has started to interfere with sleep and has prompted me to consider what is holding me back from an appointment with a primary care physician or an orthopedic surgeon?

The Good News

While all surgical procedures come with some risk, joint replacement has been around for a long time. Enhanced techniques have resulted in shorter hospital stays and less complications. However, surgery is scary and expensive. Plus, there’s fear of post-operative pain and time away from work or activity.

Big Questions

These are some of the questions I have about joint replacement surgery: What will “normal” look like after surgery? Will I get full range of motion and lose the pain? Will I have a limp? What would be the duration of physical therapy that would ensure full recovery and activity?

You may have even more questions to add to this list.

The Answers

Find a good orthopedist who will evaluate you and answer your questions. Do your research around insurance coverage and work-related leave.

Most importantly, talk to your friends who have gone through the surgical procedure. Find out what worked for them and what didn’t. Learn about how they responded to post-operative therapy, and what they felt they could have done better.

Commitment to post-op protocols is critical. Do your exercises: both with your physical therapist and your homework at home. Look to family and friends for help when you need it. I hope you find these strategies informative and encouraging and that they will assist in extending your pain-free mobility for the future. For most, this surgery is well worth it. Trust me, you and I have miles to go and people to see in this journey called life.

Cyndi Burke

Cyndi Burke manages the Quality Team at the Atlanta Regional Commission. Her passion is systems change influencing the social, economic, and environmental factors that improve health at the population level and reduce healthcare costs.