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7 tell-tale signs it's time for a hip or knee replacement

If hip or knee pain is interfering with your life, you might consider joint replacement surgery. Here's what you need to know.

March 29, 2024

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 20% of U.S. adults are living with arthritis, a group of diseases that affect the joints, causing symptoms like joint pain, swelling and stiffness. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition in which the cartilage between your joints breaks down.

Some people who experience chronic joint pain due to osteoarthritis or damaged joints find relief through lifestyle modifications, medication and/or physical therapy. For others, conservative treatments might not be successful, and a joint replacement surgery might be the best option. If you’re considering hip or knee replacement surgery, here’s what you need to know.

What conditions are treated by joint replacement surgery?

People with the following conditions find relief and improved functionality through joint replacement surgery:

  • Osteoarthritis (the most common reason for both knee and hip replacements)
  • Post-traumatic arthritis, such as from a sports-related or accident-related injury
  • Joint damage from developmental abnormalities or childhood hip disorders
  • Joint damage from trauma, tumors, infection or tissue death
  • Inflammatory types of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis, gout or psoriatic arthritis

What are some warning signs that it might be time for a joint replacement?

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, you may be a good candidate for hip or knee replacement surgery if:

  • You’re unable to perform daily activities due to pain.
  • You experience pain or stiffness even when lying down or at rest.
  • You’re in pain despite taking medications or receiving injections.
  • You find that supportive devices, like canes and walkers, do not provide relief.
  • You did not experience improvement with physical therapy.
  • You have significant inflammation, swelling or joint deformity.
  • You find workarounds for accomplishing certain tasks.

Am I a candidate for joint replacement surgery?

Recommendations for joint replacement surgery are individualized, based on your personal level of pain and disability and an assessment from your doctor. Most doctors will first recommend conservative, non-surgical methods to reduce pain and improve mobility, such as:

  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Strengthening muscles to help support the joint
  • Stretching the joints to reduce stiffness and pain
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Balancing activity and rest
  • Avoiding excessive, repetitive movements
  • Using hot and cold therapy
  • Employing assistive devices, including mobility aids like canes and walkers, bathing and toileting aids like grab bars and shower benches and devices you wear on your body, such as orthotics and braces
  • Taking over-the-counter or prescription medications for pain 
  • Managing pain with injections
  • Doing physical or occupational therapy
  • Trying cognitive behavioral therapy (a form of talk therapy) to help cope with the psychological effects of chronic pain

If these non-surgical solutions are ineffective or fail to provide relief over time, your doctor may recommend that you undergo joint replacement surgery.

Ready to learn more about ways to find relief for your knee or hip pain? Complete our free, confidential knee and hip pain health risk assessment and receive personalized recommendations. Your results will be emailed to you, and there’s no further obligation.

What to do if you are considering knee or hip replacement surgery?

If noninvasive solutions are not providing adequate relief, talk to your family and primary care physician about the risks and benefits of joint replacement surgery. When you are ready to explore surgical solutions, your doctor can refer you to orthopedic surgeons who will go over your surgical options along with each of their risks and benefits.

Also, consider conducting your own research, looking for experienced surgeons in your region. In addition to having positive reviews and outcomes, ask how many surgeries the surgeon or hospital performs per month/per year.

How much improvement can be expected after hip or knee replacement surgery?

After knee or hip replacement surgery, most patients experience reduced pain and improved function and quality of life, but neither knee nor hip replacements are fool-proof. Like your own joints, the artificial joints you’ll receive are subject to wear and tear. And although most patients are able to get back to their normal daily activities, you’ll probably be limited in your ability to do more intense forms of exercise. In other words, you’ll likely have to forgo running, jogging or jumping with your new joint in favor of lower-impact activities like walking, swimming and biking.

Still, with an estimated 90 to 95% of people reporting total relief after hip replacement and an estimated 80 to 85% finding total relief after knee replacement, these procedures have greatly improved millions of people’s quality of life. And if you’re experiencing some of the seven signs that it might be time for joint replacement, a hip or knee replacement procedure might be an incredible option for you.

HCA Virginia Health System offers advanced, compassionate orthopedic care in hospitals across the state. Our skilled orthopedic surgeons use the latest technology to provide a wide range of joint replacement procedures, including knee replacements and hip replacements. Take our hip and knee health risk assessment to find out if you might be a candidate for joint replacement surgery.

March 29, 2024

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