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    Should You Have Knee or Hip Replacement Surgery?

    When Joint Replacement May Not Help continued...

    Not sure why you hurt. Your surgeon needs to be certain that the pain you feel is really caused by joint damage and that a new hip or knee will help.

    "People can have pain that feels like joint pain, but the scans don't seem to show damage in the joint," Nayfeh says. There are lots of reasons for severe pain in the knee or hip -- such as nerve damage -- but a joint replacement won't help.

    Pain when you're still but not when you move. "Joint replacements are well established for treating pain that gets worse when walking," Nayfeh says. "But people who only have pain while at rest seem less likely to benefit."

    Things to Consider

    Even if you meet the requirements for joint replacement surgery, ask yourself three key questions:

    Could another treatment work? Joint replacement is a relatively safe procedure, but it does have risks, and full recovery takes months. Make sure that you've tried nonsurgical treatments first.

    Do you have help at home? It's not easy to recover from joint surgery when you're living alone. For at least a few weeks, you'll likely need some help to get dressed, prepare food, change your bandages, and move around. If you don't have family or close friends who can pitch in, see if there's a rehab place where you can recover.

    Are you willing to make changes? To get the best results, you need to commit yourself to hard work in the months before and after surgery. You may need to improve your lifestyle, eat healthier, quit smoking, lose weight, and exercise more. 

    "I tell people that when it comes to a successful joint implant, 10% of the success lies with the surgeon, 10% with the surgery, and 10% with the physical therapist," Nayfeh says. "The rest is up to the patient. If they don't work at recovery, they don't get better."

    Next Steps

    Here's how to organize your decision-making process:

    Do your research. There are a lot of types of joint replacements, so read up on the different methods. Check out trustworthy web sites, like the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) or the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons (AAHKS), Austin says.

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