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When is it Time for Joint Replacement?

Itís common to develop joint pain as you age. Many people think itís so common and such a normal part of aging they donít even talk to their doctors about it. Arthritis, the most common form of joint pain in the United States, affects one out of every six adults in America.

There are a lot of things you can do about joint pain before you even have to give a thought to replacing a joint. Read ďLiving with Arthritis: Take an Active Approach,Ē for advice about lifestyle changes you can make to reduce arthritis pain. But for some people, the time comes when replacing a painful joint is probably the best option.

Ask yourself some questions
Itís probably time to talk with your rheumatologist or orthopedic surgeon about the possibility of joint replacement if you answer yes to any of the following questions:

  • Do you have trouble sleeping at night because of your joint pain?
  • Has your pain medication stopped working, or have you been unable to find a medication that ever has worked?
  • Does your pain keep you from normal activities such as getting together with friends, going shopping or going on vacation?
  • Do you have trouble going up stairs, getting out of a chair, or getting off the floor or toilet?

Things to consider before making your decision
In order to make a decision about whether or not to have joint replacement surgery, you and your doctor will need to discuss the following subjects, to weigh the risks and benefits of the surgery for you:

Your current health status.
Conditions such as lung disease, heart disease and high blood sugar add to the risk of surgery, and certain medications lower your immune system. This doesnít mean that you shouldnít have surgery if any of these circumstances apply to you. It just means that you need to assess exactly what your risks are.

Your weight: If youíre extremely overweight, your doctor may recommend that you lose some of that weight before the surgery. Having your weight in the healthy range helps make your recovery easier and may make your joint replacement last longer. When you have your new joint, you may find it easier to keep weight off because it will become less painful for you to exercise.

Age: A general rule of thumb is that surgeons often prefer to avoid doing joint replacement on the very old and the very young. Your doctor will talk with you about your age and whether surgery would be too risky.

Osteoporosis: If you have a severe case of osteoporosis, or if youíve had a history of stress fractures, your doctor may want to begin treatment for this before doing joint replacement surgery.

Nutrition: Good nutrition helps keep you in good health.† Your doctor may want to assess your diet to see whether there are changes you could make in this area.

While most people donít look forward to having any kind of surgery, itís important to keep in mind that in the long run, joint replacement can greatly improve the quality of your life. It gives you freedom from constant pain and allows you to enjoy the activities youíve probably been avoiding for some time now.

Read more about the types of joint replacement surgery and about the way one Ohio hospital does its best to make joint replacement fun.

The Arthritis Foundation

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