If knee or hip pain is starting to limit your life, it’s time to think about repairing or replacing those aching joints, rather than retiring from the game. And the sooner you seek help, the better, experts agree.
In fact, one of the worst things you can do with deteriorating joints is postpone surgery until the pain is so bad that you can no longer walk, golf or engage in other activities. That’s because waiting until your condition worsens can make you sedentary, introducing a whole host of other problems.
“Restricting activity often leads to weight gain which can aggravate an already compromised knee or hip joint,” says orthopedic surgeon Savyasachi Thakkar, MD, of MedStar Orthopaedic Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “Plus lack of use can weaken your muscles and slow your recovery from surgery.”
Along those same lines, Dr. Thakkar also cautions against waiting until you’re older to consider joint replacement.
“Surgery can improve your quality of life for years to come. So, even if you’re under 50, don’t think you’re too young for the procedure.”
Technological advances over the years have resulted in shorter hospital stays, less pain and faster recovery. Additionally, new, improved materials are far more durable, reducing the chances of a repeat replacement in the future. Studies show that between 60 to 70 percent of patients today can expect their joint replacement to last 25 to 30 years.
The fear of being bed-ridden after surgery, with little or no return to normal range of motion, is another persistent myth.
“I schedule hip replacement surgeries, which typically take about two hours, in the morning, and we may have you up and walking by noon,” Dr. Thakkar says. “You could be walking soon after knee surgery, too.”
Some activities may be restricted during the first six to eight weeks of recovery, based on the procedure performed. But soon thereafter, patients can expect to resume their usual activities with a full range of motion.
“Joint replacement surgery has advanced tremendously over the last few years,” Dr. Thakkar concludes. “The minute joint pain affects you—your work, quality of life, or ability to live independently—you should see a specialist for an initial evaluation. We can help you live your life fully, in balance and pain-free.”