Many times, healthcare decisions are straightforward: for instance, if you break your leg, you get a cast. Or if you have a urinary tract infection, your doctor gives you a prescription for an antibiotic. However, when it comes to deciding whether or not total joint replacement is right for you, the decision is not always so cut and dried.
So how do you know when it’s time to consider total joint replacement? The most important factor is to think carefully about how much pain you’re experiencing and how
much it is affecting the quality of your life.
To help you decide what’s right for you, here are 10 signs that it's time to talk to your doctor about having a total joint replacement:
1. You have pain when trying to perform routine daily tasks such as dressing, bathing or climbing stairs.
2. Joint pain keeps you awake at night, even when you use pain or anti-inflammatory medications that used to help you.
3. You’ve tried non-surgical treatments, such as pain injections or physical therapy for your joint pain, but they are no longer effective for you.
4. The pain medications you use are causing new or serious side effects and you are unable to continue using them.
5. Your x-rays or imaging tests show you have significant joint damage and your doctor recommends a total joint replacement.
6. You have started to use a cane or walker every day due to joint pain.
7. Even when you’re not using your painful joint, you are still experiencing noticeable pain in that joint.
8. Joint pain, numbness or tingling is causing you to be clumsy, which is jeopardizing your safety.
9. You feel your joint pain is affecting your ability to take care of yourself or your family.
10. You feel you can no longer do your job, or perform it safely.
Besides symptoms like these, there are other things you should consider when you are thinking about total joint replacement, such as:
- Your age. Although people of all ages and conditions undergo total joint replacement, most people who get joints replaced are between 50-80 years old.
- Your bone health. If you have osteoarthritis or your bones and joints have become deformed or degenerated due to aging or disease, a total joint replacement may not only be the best option, it may be the only option.
- Your history. If you’ve had an accident where your joint was severely damaged, a total joint replacement may be the only way to regain normal use of that joint again.
Next Step: Consult with an Orthopaedic Surgeon
Finding an orthopaedic surgeon experienced in joint health and total joint replacement is critical to understanding what is best for you. Don’t wait to talk to this expert in order to get the assessment and information you need. If you wait and your joint pain worsens, the stiffness of that joint also can worsen. This can make replacing the affected joint even more difficult for your surgeon, which can lead to a longer recovery, more physical therapy and potential complications.
But on the other hand, if you take action and have your joint replaced, you could start experiencing significantly reduced pain—and an enhanced quality of life that you may have thought was long behind you.