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Is Joint Replacement for You?

It may be the right choice if you're in a lot of pain and other treatments don't help. But you want to be sure that your knee or hip is actually the cause of your problem, says Michaela M. Schneiderbauer, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "The source could be something other than the joint itself, even if arthritis is visible on an MRI."

If you actually have nerve or muscle pain, a joint replacement won't help, Schneiderbauer says. Your doctor can tell the difference if he does a careful physical exam and asks you questions about what's hurting you.

Realistic Expectations

A joint replacement can stop pain, but it can't restore the hip or knee you had when you were younger. You shouldn't expect to move the joint the way you did 20 or 30 years ago, Schneiderbauer says.

As for Pepper, he went forward with his knee replacement. After 4 months of intense rehab, the pain was gone. He's back to speed-walking and climbs 100 steps every day to keep his knee strong. On a vacation to Italy and Croatia, he wore a pedometer. "There were times when I comfortably walked 7 miles in a day," he says. "It feels like my knee now."

Pepper's advice: Consider a joint replacement "if pain is interfering with how you want to live your life."