One of the most impressive healthcare developments in history is the joint replacement. Many people are able to take out a joint that is extremely painful and dysfunctional and give it a whole new lease on life with a surgically inserted prosthesis.
The improvements in this type of surgery over recent years have meant that success rates for joint replacement surgery, particularly hip and knee replacements are higher than ever. If you are struggling with joint pain related to arthritis, it can be difficult to know when to start thinking seriously about surgery. Here are a few things to consider before going for that surgical opinion...
Don't assume pain is permanent once you hear the word arthritis
Pain is complex and is often not caused by one single thing. Most people will have some amount of arthritis in their joints past the age of 50, whether or not this is what is causing your pain will be unclear without first seeking assessment and treatment.
Many people have some level of degeneration in their joints without experiencing much discomfort at all, as a normal part of the ageing process. It's possible that a combination of strengthening and manual therapy could improve your symptoms significantly, even if osteoarthritis is present. A trial of physiotherapy is recommended before surgery in most cases.
Pre-surgical strength and fitness are important
This means two things. First of all, your strength before surgery will set you up for much better post-operative results. The second thing is that choosing when to have the surgery means not necessarily waiting until the pain is unbearable before going ahead, as time spent in significant pain can reduce your overall strength and fitness while also putting more stress on other joints.
Research the risks and side effects
While surgical outcomes are continually improving, no surgery comes without risks and some people will have ongoing pain and stiffness even after their operation. It is important to make an informed decision about when and if you should have a joint replacement.
If you are considering a joint replacement, speak to your physiotherapist about all the ways they can support you through your journey and help you come to an informed decision about what is right for you.
The decision to have surgery following an injury is a serious and complicated one. It can be difficult when navigating the minefield of information you receive to know what is the right pathway for you.
Unfortunately, the answer is not always obvious which can be confusing. To ensure that surgery is right for you, here are a few questions it pays to ask yourself and your medical team before making a decision.
How much will surgery cost and will I need to take time off work?
One of the major downsides of surgery is that you will often need to take time off work to recover, resulting in lost income. The cost of the surgery itself may not be completely covered by your insurance, particularly for elective procedures and you will often need to have physiotherapy afterwards. The cost of surgery can really add up, and if you can achieve similar results with physiotherapy alone, you might find yourself in a much better financial situation.
What are the potential complications and success rates for your surgery?
All surgeries come with risks and potential complications, the probability of these will vary depending on the type of surgery, your age and general health. It is also important to compare the success rates of surgery with a period of physiotherapy treatment. Optimal surgical outcomes still often depend on effective post-surgery management, which can be an argument for considering physiotherapy first. In some cases, however, healing simply will not occur without surgical intervention and physiotherapy will have little success in resolving the issue.
What are your post-surgical goals?
Not everyone wants to ski down a mountain, but for some, being able to push and trust their bodies is important for both their income and quality of life. Surgery that aims to repair damaged structures might be the right decision for someone who has high demands on their body, but not for another person who isn't very active. Setting your goals for your body can help to guide your decision making process.
Before making any major decisions, it is important to consult your medical, surgical and physiotherapy team to ensure you are well educated in all the risks and rewards of undergoing surgery.