By Dr. Adam Rothenberg
Special to the Reporter
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2013–2015, an estimated 54.4 million U.S. adults were diagnosed each year with some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus or fibromyalgia. That’s a lot of Americans living with joint pain.
Luckily, a variety of treatment options are available for joint pain— with joint replacement being top of mind for many. But how do you know if joint replacement is right for you? Understanding the different types of joint pain and available treatment options is key to making an informed decision about your care.
Solutions for joint pain
Joint pain comes in many forms. Osteoarthritis, for example, is the most common diagnosis that causes a joint to break down. It can also lead to other issues such as inflammatory arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and several gout issues. Less common inflammatory conditions exist as well, but all share a similar pathway leading to degradation of the cartilage and the structures around the joint, which work together to lubricate it and allow for range of motion.
When you experience persistent joint pain, keep in mind that there is a first line of defense before arriving at joint replacement. I first recommend to my patients that they remove some of the stressors triggering their pain through low-impact activities, like cycling and swimming. Maintaining a healthy weight and nutritious diet also will help ease pain and inflammation.
If these lifestyle changes don’t offer relief, the next recommendation is physical therapy. Like all other treatments or care regiments, your physical therapist will work with you to tailor your care plan to you and your individual health goals. Depending on your circumstance, I may also prescribe anti-inflammatory injections in conjunction with physical therapy, to further help relieve pain and increase function.
If these approaches haven’t resolved your joint pain and it’s still disrupting your quality of life, it may be time to for us to start a conversation about joint replacement surgery and whether it’s right for you.
Options for joint replacement
Prior to scheduling any type of procedure, I work together with my patients to set goals for what they want as a result of joint replacement. If you lead an active lifestyle, for example, do you want to get back to the same level of activity? Or perhaps you want to keep up with your grandchildren or go on more hikes or walks with the dog.
Your health and wellness goals, bone and joint health, individual anatomy and age are important factors in your surgical plan, as well. The most common age for joint replacement is 65, but some younger patients find that surgery is their best option.
In addition to considering these factors, I’ll evaluate your MRI and CT scans when developing your custom joint replacement plan, as advanced imaging can help precisely identify which part of the joint is damaged. Some individuals may need a partial joint replacement, while others are better suited for a full replacement. No two patients are alike, which is why it’s critical to customize care plans; there is no one-size-fits-all joint replacement.
In fact, state-of-the-art technologies for both knee and hip replacements offer several options for tailoring the procedure to your individual anatomy, while still preserving the structures in and around the joint that do function properly. In other words, we are able to simply replace the parts that are damaged. In some cases, we can even create custom implants to ensure the best fit and function for your anatomy.
Recovery and rehabilitation
Recovery is just as important as the joint replacement procedure itself, and similarly, can be individualized to help you recover comfortably and safely using a multimodal pain regimen. While everyone is different, the general recovery time for a hip or knee replacement is typically six weeks to reach roughly 75% – 80% recovery, with a full recovery taking anywhere from three months to one year.
Most importantly, when you have a joint replaced, you must keep it active to reap the full benefits. Staying active keeps the joint healthy and can help prevent other conditions like arthritis from developing. By staying active and maintaining a healthy diet, your joint replacement will better serve you and your lifestyle for years to come.
Continuing your care
If you want to explore your options for joint pain, EvergreenHealth is here to partner with you in every circumstance. During these unprecedented times, I – along with my team of physicians and providers –
remain dedicated as ever to caring for our community in an environment of absolute safety. To learn more about how we’re ensuring, safe, high-quality care during COVID-19, visit www.evergreenhealth.com/continuing-your-care.
Learn more about EvergreenHealth Orthopedic & Sports Care at www.evergreenhealth.com/ortho-sports-medicine.