If your goal for the New Year is to reduce the amount of joint pain that is keeping you from activities you used to do with ease, total joint replacement may be something that has crossed your mind. The cause of joint pain is often the result of damage done to the cartilage that lines the ends of the bones. Arthritis, a fracture, or other conditions can be the cause of this damage which is, unfortunately, irreversible.
The beginning of the year is an ideal time to be thinking about ways to help relieve joint pain. This will give you time to learn about all of your options and to prepare for the replacement, should it be the best option for you. A good first step is speaking with an orthopedic doctor who can help you get back the lifestyle and activities you want.
If joint replacement is on your radar, here are five things to consider.
1. Non-surgical Treatment Options
Total joint replacement is done after conservative treatment options such as medications, injections, and physical therapy have not helped. If you have not yet tried conservative treatments for your joint pain, be prepared for your doctor to inform you of all the non-surgical options and encourage you to try that first. Surgery is often not the very first or only option recommended, and it’s ideal if you can delay major surgery by regaining function and lowering pain with non-surgical treatment
2. Good Health
Before undergoing total joint replacement, your doctor will run various tests to check your general health to determine if you are fit for surgery.
- Complications before and after surgery have been shown to increase in patients with a BMI (body mass index) greater than 40. Often patients have the best intentions to lose weight after surgery because they assume they will be more physically active. However, studies have shown that outcomes are more favorable for patients who undergo surgery at a healthy weight.
- Smokers also have a higher rate of complications after surgery than nonsmokers, such as poor wound healing and infection — and outcomes are less satisfactory. This is related to the decrease in blood supply to the tissues.
- Visits to the dentist will be necessary at least one month prior to surgery to make sure there are no active infections or issues that need to be addressed prior to surgery. Dental problems can cause surgery to be postponed or canceled.
3. The Timeline
If you and your orthopedic surgeon have decided that you are a good candidate for joint replacement surgery, you’ll want to start planning for your big day well in advance.
- Prepare your home so that it’s ready for you when you come home from surgery. Setting up your home prior to your surgery will make your life easier and your recovery more comfortable. Here are instructions to get your home “recovery ready.”
- One month before surgery – you will be asked to complete various labs and health screens to determine if you are fit for surgery. If your surgery is taking place at St. Charles hospital, you will be asked to attend a total joint education class so that you know what to expect with your hospital stay.
- You will follow a detailed appointment checklist one week and the evening before your surgery.
4. Have A Coach
Make arrangements to have someone (family or friend) assist you after surgery. It is important that this person comes with you to all of your appointments and has a good understanding of what you and he or she needs to do after surgery. Your coach should be available to bring you to surgery, care for you after surgery, and help you for the first week after surgery. Your coach is your support person to help assist you through this process.
5. Expectations After Surgery
After your joint replacement, you will want to focus on your recovery for the best possible outcome.
- Returning to work and activities will take time. Work with your surgical and physical therapy teams to determine a plan that will work for you and your recovery.
- You may not drive until your pain medications (opioids) are discontinued. Your orthopedic surgeon will also want you to have regained range of motion, strength, and reaction time before clearing you to drive.
- The goal of your surgery is to allow you to perform your favorite activities without pain, and staying active is important. Avoid strenuous, high-impact activities such as running and aggressive skiing until discussed with your orthopedic surgeon.
- Try to focus on a healthy, high fiber diet, drink plenty of fluids, and avoid smoking and tobacco products. In addition, maintaining a healthy body weight will reduce wear on your new joint.
Schedule an appointment with one of our providers to start discussing your options. Call 541.322.2352.