When You’ve Tried Alternatives, It Might Be Time for Joint Replacement Surgery

There are a number of reasons your joints -- especially your knees and hips -- could be hurting. The pain could be a result of osteoarthritis, an old injury flaring up, too much high-impact activity, or simple wear and tear that occurs over time. If you've tried everything to ease your pain, it might be time to consider a joint replacement.

"The expectation with joint replacement is for the pain to get significantly better," says Dr. Patrick Murray, a doctor specializing in hip and knee surgery at Roper St. Francis Healthcare. "With hip replacements it usually gets completely better, and with knee replacements, some patients may have soreness. The goal is for people to resume the activities of daily living they were doing before."

Here are four reasons you may need joint replacement surgery.

1. You've tried over-the-counter pain relievers.

There are plenty of medications you can grab at your local pharmacy. Dr. Murray suggests Tylenol for pain and meds like Aleve, Ibuprofen and Naproxen to decrease inflammation. You should start noticing results within a week or two of taking these medications around-the-clock. After four to six weeks, if they're not successfully managing your discomfort, you should explore other options.

2. You've tried physical therapy.

Dr. Murray typically recommends physical therapy two to three times a week for six weeks, primarily focusing on range of motion exercises and strengthening muscles around the affected joint. Physical therapy can be done simultaneously with over-the-counter medications.

"The next step would be going to see your primary care doctor or often going directly to an orthopedic surgeon, in which case we'd start with X-rays of whatever is hurting," Dr. Murray says.

3. You've gotten injections.

Next, many patients will try injections. The most common are steroid injections, which are something that can be done in a doctor's office every three months and take just a couple of minutes. "The point of an injection is that it's an anti-inflammatory, much like pills, but putting a dose right into the infected joint to help with pain and swelling," Dr. Murray says.

4. The pain is interfering with your daily routine.

"Everyone's different in terms of when they decide they're ready to proceed with surgery, but it's important to go through all non-operative measures first," Dr. Murray says. "But if you're experiencing pain on a daily basis, you change daily activities to work around pain, and it's no longer being effectively managed, it's probably time to consider joint replacement surgery," Dr. Murray says.

You might notice that your daily routine is affected if you have a difficult time getting in and out of cars, putting on shoes, going up and down stairs or simply walking short distances -- or if you work and your joint pain is keeping you from doing your job properly.

To keep your joints strong, Dr. Murray recommends staying active, but sticking to low-impact activities like biking, swimming or the elliptical, which are better for your joints long-term than running or high-impact sports.

As the Lowcountry leader in adult healthcare, Roper St. Francis can take care of all of your healthcare needs. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call (843) 402-CARE or visit rsfh.com.