Many patients come to our office because of pain in their hips, knees, and shoulders. They come looking for relief. It is extremely common for our discussion to center around conservative treatments including anti-inflammatory medications, activity modifications, and injections. All too frequently, we enter the discussion of joint replacement.
It is important to understand that when you are dealing with arthritis (osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, post-traumatic arthritis, etc), all of the nonsurgical options are an attempt to manage the symptoms of the arthritis, but do not directly address or cure the joint disease. These are all excellent methods, but keep in mind, they do not cure the process. Only a joint replacement will address all the pathology and finally cure the joint from the arthritic condition. That is something most patients are excited to think about. I love the look on my patients’ faces when they realize they will no longer have the pain and it will never come back.
For some, deciding to move forward with joint replacement can give them considerable anxiety and deliberation. Our discussions revolve around the fact they have:
“But, it isn’t killing me…”
…Is something I hear. The pain and disability is not directly a morbid condition but it is affecting their health. They hurt and therefore do less. The deconditioning process ensues. Weight gain and further pressure on the joint exacerbates their condition.
I finally give my “what are you waiting for” speech. It is important to know that the total joint replacements of the hip and knee have excellent longevity with lifespans of 20-30 years. Our materials are better than ever. Great strides have been made in the wear properties of these artificial joints.
If my hypothetical, yet typical, patient is 57 years of age and is struggling to pull the trigger on joint replacement, I will ask them which two years are more important. Going further, I will ask that they consider the fact that if they literally and figuratively limp through life for another 2 years with this pain, they are essentially saving 2 years on the back end given that the joints last 20-30 years. So I again ask, which 2 years are more important? Years 57 to 59 or 87 to 89. In my opinion, I would rather be free of joint pain now and let my joint function be determined in 30 years. In general, most people are much more active when they are in their 40’s, 50’s, or 60’s compared to their 80’s or 90’s.
Which 2 years are more important – years 57 to 59, or 87 to 89?
I fully support your patients pursuit of a healthy, active lifestyle and will partner with you to help alleviate joint pain, so you can live life to the fullest. I respect surgery and understand the inherent risks associated with it. When conservative measures fail to give the pain relief that you seek, joint replacement is a tremendous opportunity to cure the arthritic condition and enhance the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients each year. Investing a few weeks of recovery and rehab can pay huge dividends on your quality of life.
Please let us know how we can help you with your joint pain / joint replacement.