Our bodies’ joints allow us to move in myriad ways efficiently and comfortably. Sometimes, however, we develop pain, stiffness, or swelling in a joint that makes it nearly impossible to move the way we used to.
Bone diseases such as arthritis — as well as injuries and other bone disorders — are common causes of this kind of pain and joint immobility. Often joint replacement surgery can restore significant levels of ease and range of motion, letting you return to your favorite activities. In fact, hundreds of thousands of people undergo some form of joint replacement surgery each year in the U.S. alone.
What is joint replacement surgery?
When a joint replacement is performed, materials such as metal, plastic, and special types of ceramic are engineered into the shape of an artificial joint. These highly durable, artificial components are measured to fit specifically into your body – most often in a patient’s hip, knee, shoulder, elbow, or ankle.
The orthopedic surgeon makes careful incisions to get past tendons and muscles in the joint being worked on. Diseased or damaged surfaces in the joint are removed, and the artificial joint components are secured in place.
By participating in pre-surgery information sessions on joint health and the procedure you’re considering – and a thorough physical therapy regimen after surgery – your quality of life should improve significantly. Informed patients tend to experience better outcomes, so be sure to ask as many questions as you need to!
When would you need joint replacement surgery?
To be clear, joint replacement surgery is typically a “last resort” solution. Before recommending surgery, your orthopedic health care team will suggest several non-surgical methods to reduce your joint pain and stiffness. The goal is to preserve your natural joint as much as possible. These “first string” treatments may include:
- Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen, naproxen and acetaminophen
- Avoiding or modifying activities that cause pain
- Physical therapy and low-impact exercise
- Weight loss to take pressure off damaged joints
- Bracing to provide support
- Corticosteroid injections
If these more conservative methods do not alleviate pain sufficiently, joint replacement surgery may then be considered. That said, not everyone is an ideal candidate for these procedures. You’ll have to discuss your options with your orthopedic specialists after a thorough health evaluation.
Where do people undergo joint replacement surgery?
You might have assumed a procedure of this type would require staying in the hospital for days, but that’s not always the case. Some patients do have a joint replaced in a hospital, staying there for one to three days (for example, after a hip replacement). During that time, they take part in physical therapy at the hospital, and then continue physical therapy after returning home.
However, more and more patients are able to receive joint replacements at an ambulatory surgery center. An ambulatory surgery center, when deemed appropriate for a patient, is an extremely safe and convenient way to have a procedure. There are several advantages to having surgery in an ambulatory setting. Top of the list: you get to go home that day! Spectrum’s Ambulatory Surgery Center (ASC) is staffed with a highly skilled team including anesthesiologists, nurses, surgical technologists, and sterile processing techs.
No matter what type of joint replacement surgery you may have, physical therapy. In fact, you’ll begin your physical rehabilitation before your planned procedure to help get your body ready for what is to come. Your Spectrum Orthopaedics team will refer you to meet with your therapist before surgery, and then you will schedule appointments to be ready for rehabilitation right after discharge.
If you’re a candidate for joint replacement surgery – or if you’re curious whether it’s an option to address your joint pain – our team is always here to answer your questions. Don’t assume you have to suffer with extreme discomfort in your joints and give up activities you love. You may have more choices than you realized, and we’re happy to help you navigate all phases of your orthopedic healing journey.
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For more information about the joint replacement surgeries offered by Spectrum Orthopaedics, please visit this link.