Joint replacement surgery helps many people enjoy a life with less pain and fewer limitations. But it's not for everyone. This tool can help you understand some key considerations when you're thinking about joint replacement. The information mainly applies to hip and knee procedures.
Have you tried other treatments for your joint pain?
If you answered "yes." You may have tried exercise, physical therapy, pain medications or injections, for instance. If these or other nonsurgical options did not help you enough, joint replacement may be a treatment to consider.
If you answered "no." Before you decide to have joint surgery, be sure you and your doctor have discussed nonsurgical options. Some alternatives to surgery include exercise, physical therapy, and pain medications or injections.
Does your pain keep you from enjoying activities?
If you answered "yes." You may be a candidate for joint replacement if your pain interferes with your daily life. It may keep you from getting a good night's rest, doing simple chores at home, doing your job or traveling.
If you answered "no." Doctors often recommend joint replacement surgery for people with severe arthritis pain that disrupts daily activities, like walking to the mailbox or getting dressed. But if you don't have a lot of pain or stiffness, you may not have as much to gain from a new joint.
Do you and your doctor agree you're the right age for joint surgery?
If you answered "yes." Joint replacement surgery is usually done when people are around 60 years or older. But it may be OK for many younger people as well.
If you answered "no." Many prosthetic joints can last 20 years or more. But how long a new joint will last depends on such factors as your age and activity level. If you have joint replacement surgery too soon, the new joint may wear out too early. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, delaying surgery shouldn't prevent joint replacement from working well for you when you're older.
Are you healthy enough for joint surgery?
If you answered "yes." If you're in good overall health, that's great! It could help ensure a successful surgery and recovery. Your doctor will also want to see a full picture of your medical history. Other problems, like past injuries or surgeries, could also be important to consider.
If you answered "no." Some health problems could make surgery more risky or hamper your recovery. Those include heart and lung diseases as well as extreme obesity.
Can you take several weeks off from work while you recover?
If you answered "yes." That's good, because you will need that time to heal. Recovery from joint replacement surgery can take six weeks or longer. And you may not be able to leave the house much for the first few weeks.
If you answered "no." Talking with your employer may help you come to an agreement about taking time off to heal and recover. Depending on the type of work you do, perhaps you could do part of your job from home.
Has your doctor told you how surgery might help you?
If you answered "yes." That's important—and you may want to ask for resources to do your own research too. Learning about joint surgery beforehand can help you understand the procedure and how likely it is to benefit you. You'll also want to understand the limitations of joint surgery and its possible complications.
If you answered "no." Before you decide to have joint surgery, make sure you understand how likely the procedure is to improve your quality of life. Ask your doctor any questions you have. Sometimes it helps to talk to other people who've had joint surgery to learn more about what it was like for them.
Are you ready to commit to rehab exercises after surgery?
If you answered "yes." What happens after joint surgery is almost as important as the surgery. Specifically, your doctor may want you to complete a weeks-long period of rehabilitation and exercise to help ensure a successful recovery. The exercises can help you get stronger and use your new joint better.
If you answered "no." If you're not sure you're ready to commit to rehab, you may want to discuss your concerns with your doctor. The more you learn, the more you'll know if you're ready. Post-surgery rehab is a journey. And some days it can be challenging. But the rewards are worth the work.
Talk with your doctor about your results, and be sure to ask any questions that came up in this assessment. Together, you can decide what the right next step is for you.