The majority of patients put off joint replacement surgery as long as possible, which I agree with 100 percent. While there have been significant advancements in anesthesia, medicine and surgical techniques, there are still risks with any surgery.

One reason patients delay having knee and hip replacement surgery as long as possible may be due to the risks of surgery. But other factors will impact a decision as well, including what the recovery might be like and time out of work. In many cases, surgery is the option patients choose after they’ve tried alternative treatments for pain.

Treatment for joint pain

There are a handful of nonsurgical joint pain treatment alternatives for the treatment of arthritis and severe joint pain.

  • Physical therapy is often quite effective, especially when combined with self-directed low impact exercises such as walking, biking, swimming and yoga. The key is to keep moving.
  • A healthy, well-balanced diet can also help reduce inflammation and promote weight loss. There are many foods and spices that are known to help fight inflammation, like turmeric. The Arthritis Foundation are wonderful resources and can help guide your food options.
  • In addition to diet and exercise, weight loss can also help decrease the stress on joints and reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications are another option. These medications can help with inflammation and pain, but it is best to consult your physician first since there are always risks of side effects like stomach ulcers or impact to kidney function.

When is it time for joint replacement surgery?

Total joint replacement should be put off as long as possible and other treatment options should be exhausted. I tell each patient a treatment plan is individualized, and each person is different.

In general, however, it is time for surgery when your pain and joint dysfunction is disabling. When it affects your quality of life to a degree where you can no longer do the daily activities you enjoy, then it is time to talk with a doctor.

Consult with a joint replacement surgeon to determine if surgery is right for you. Many patients just want to be able to play with their kids or grandkids and go on walks with their loved ones without pain, which is certainly understandable.

What can you expect after joint replacement surgery?

Once they are through with their surgery, patients are generally thrilled with their joint replacement. Mostly, they are very thankful to be pain free in comparison to where they were prior to surgery. It’s very rewarding to return patients to the activities they love.

If you are experiencing joint pain, it is best to be evaluated by your primary care doctor or orthopedic doctor. Next steps will include obtaining your medical history, performing a physical examination, getting X-rays and other laboratory tests completed. These steps will help to determine the cause of your joint pain and ultimately develop a treatment plan that’s tailored for you.

For more information on joint replacement, visit our Total Joint Center website, and learn more about our team of experts who can help you.

Eric M. Cohen, MD

Dr. Eric Cohen is the program director of the Total Joint Center at The Miriam Hospital. He is an adult reconstructive and trauma orthopedic surgeon at Lifespan Orthopedics Institute.