Joint replacement used to be called "high-tech," but it's now a common operation. Doctors replace more than a million hips and knees each year in the U.S., and studies show the surgeries ease pain for most folks and help them get around better.
"Joint replacement can be a life-changing procedure for the right patients," says Tariq Nayfeh, MD, PhD, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, "but it won't help everyone with hip or knee pain."
Here are simple ways you can ease osteoarthritis symptoms on your own, at home.
1. Stay active. Exercise may be the last thing you want to do when your arthritis hurts. But many studies show that physical activity is one of the best ways to improve your quality of life. Exercise boosts your energy. It can also strengthen your muscles and bones, and help keep your joints flexible. Try resistance training to build stronger muscles. Your muscles protect and support joints affected by arthritis...
To find out if a new joint is right for you, weigh the pros and cons of surgery and think carefully about the rehab you'll need to do when the operation is over.
Reasons to Replace Your Hip or Knee
You may want to consider hip or knee replacement if some of these things are true for you:
Pain and stiffness. It may be time for a new joint if it hurts so much that it's hard to walk, climb stairs, get up from a chair, or do other activities.
The pain is also long-term, lasting at least 6 months, says Matthew Austin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Affects your daily life. It's not just pain itself that matters, but the impact it has on your regular routine, Austin says. Do your joint problems limit what you can do? Does it cause your mood to change?
Bone damage. X-rays and other imaging tests show that your osteoarthritis or other conditions are taking a toll on your joints.
Other treatments don't help. Medication, injections, or devices like walkers aren't giving you the relief you need.
Deformity. Your knee is severely swollen or your leg is bowed.
When Joint Replacement May Not Help
Infection. "The No. 1 reason to avoid a joint replacement is recent infection anywhere in the body," Nayfeh says. It could spread to the area of the joint immediately after surgery or months later and cause serious problems, including joint complications that need more surgery.
Other health problems. If you have a history of heart attack, stroke, or now have diabetes that's out of control, you may be at risk for complications from surgery. Also, if you're obese you may need to lose weight before you get a joint replacement.