How to Know When When It’s Better to Choose Joint Surgery

Even if you’ve been dealing with chronic pain in a joint for years, making the decision to have joint surgery isn’t easy. According to the National Institute of Health Statistics, over million Americans have knee or hip replacement surgery every year. Joint surgery is often perceived as a senior’s procedure, which can make the decision to have surgery especially difficult for those middle-aged or younger. Many worry that they’re giving in too soon or that they should wait until they’re older, but there are other factors to consider other than age.

While your doctor can make the recommendation for joint surgery, the decision is ultimately yours. Every case is different and the symptoms experienced and the impact they have can differ greatly from person to person. Some people have significant joint damage, but find the pain manageable with little impact on their quality of life, while others with less damage may have trouble going about their daily activities. A younger person may find their pain unbearable while someone considerably older is able to remain active and manage their symptoms easily.

To help make the decision easier, here are some signs that may help you know when it’s better to choose joint surgery.

  • The pain is significant and has reached a point where it is not relieved by rest or medication.
  • You are no longer able to go about your daily routine and perform your usual tasks on your own.
  • You have failed to get relief from other non-surgical treatments, such as weight loss, medication and physical therapy.
  • You have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis and the disease is progressing, wearing you down physically and emotionally.
  • You have confirmed significant joint damage or advanced arthritis.
  • The medications you take for your joint pain is causing significant side effects.
  • Your symptoms are causing you to avoid physical activity and become sedentary.

Other Considerations Before Joint Surgery

It is important to make an informed decision when considering joint surgery. Along with the points listed above, there are other things that you may want to consider before opting for surgery, including:

  • All of your available options. There are minimally invasive alternatives to joint replacement surgery. Regenerative therapies have been shown to shorten recovery time and reduce inflammation by stimulating and optimizing your body’s ability to heal. Our collaborative team of neurological, orthopedic, interventional pain and sports medicine doctors can talk to you about your options and work with your physician to track your healing progress.
  • The risks. Educate yourself on the risks of the surgery you’re considering. Most joint surgeries are successful, but as with all surgical procedures, there are risks involved, including: infection, blood clots, nerve and blood vessel damage. After joint replacement surgery, there is also the risk of dislocation of the artificial joint, loosening of the new joint and wear, all of which may require another operation to correct. Most joint replacement surgeries last for 15 to 20 years, so younger patients should be aware of the possibility of needing to repeat the surgery in their lifetime.
  • Recovery time. Most patients who undergo joint replacement surgery feel better within 6 to 8 weeks and 8 out of 10 patients who have joint replacement surgery report being pain-free within a year of surgery. Recovery time and your needs during that time should be considered when trying to decide if it’s time for joint surgery. Shoulder replacement surgery, for instance, can make it difficult to reach for things and complete basic daily tasks, requiring some assistance from others for several weeks. Some patients require a stay at a rehabilitation facility following joint surgery.

Be sure to consider all the options available based on your condition or injury. Opting for the least-invasive options available, like the ones provided by ARO, before resorting to joint surgery is always recommended. Educate yourself on the procedures available, as well as the risks and benefits so that you can make the best decision.