Questions about joint replacement surgery

Many people older than 40 have been tough on their knees, hips and other joints all their lives through activities like jogging, playing tennis or racquetball. In a quest to stay active and reduce pain, an ever-growing number of people are now turning to joint replacement surgery.

Is orthopedic surgery, like knee or hip replacement, right for you? Only your primary-care physician and an orthopedic surgeon can determine the appropriate course of treatment.

Even though joint replacements have a high success rate, you should take alternative steps to protect your joints. The Arthritis Foundation and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggest the following:

• Maintain a healthy weight: losing extra pounds reduces stress, wear and tear on your knees, hips, back and feet.

• Exercise regularly: Physical activity protects your joints by strengthening the muscles that support them.

• Swap high-impact sports for low-impact activities: Instead of tennis or running, trying walking, swimming and/or playing golf.

• Avoid repetitive stress: Alternating strenuous activities with rest puts less stress on sensitive joints.

• Use over-the-counter or prescription medications to control pain and inflammation: You should also ask your primary care physician about the benefits of receiving injections of corticosteroids directly into painful knee joints.

• Take part in physical or occupational therapy: This can increase joint flexibility, muscle strength and range of motion.

• Use mechanical aids: Braces, crutches, walkers and/or canes may offer some help.

In the best of circumstances, these lifestyle changes may be enough to improve function and control pain in your hips, knees and other joints.

Talk with your doctor about possible joint replacement if joint pain is disturbing your sleep; noninvasive therapy, including pain medications, is not controlling your pain; joint pain is limiting your ability to keep up with your daily chores and routine; or if joint pain makes it difficult for you to get out of a chair, climb stairs or get out of bed.

Through the years, surgical techniques have improved significantly and new materials have been developed for implants. As a result, joint replacement surgery has become one of the most dependable procedures performed today.

Also, the Joint Camp program at Franciscan Health System hospitals helps to reduce patients’ anxiety about joint replacement surgery. Joint Camp removes the mystery from surgery by enabling small groups of patients to go through the process together – from pre-surgical education and surgery, to recovery, rehabilitation and discharge. By involving patients in the process from the beginning, joint replacement surgery has become a more positive, successful experience.

About the writer: Dr. David Bishop is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with Franciscan Orthopedic Associates at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Enumclaw. Need a doctor? Call the Franciscan Physician Referral Line toll-free at 1-888-825-3227.

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