Is a Hip or Knee Replacement Right for You?

Lots of options to try before considering surgery

sex after hip replacement

As people live longer and are more active, they expect more in their golden years.  They want to move well and without pain.

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“Patients today aren’t as willing to live with the limitations that past generations accepted,” says Michael Bloomfield,
MD, a Cleveland Clinic orthopaedic surgeon at Hillcrest Hospital and Cleveland Clinic main campus.

With today’s medical advances, they don’t have to. Hip and knee replacement is an elective surgery that often restores  function and alleviates pain. But is it right for you?

What are first-line treatments?

Arthritis is usually the reason for replacing hips and knees. These are the most common, followed by the shoulder and, less commonly, the elbow or ankle. But joint replacement is not a first-line treatment, especially if your arthritis is mild and there’s still cartilage left in the joint.

“I always have patients exhaust easier, nonoperative treatments before they consider surgery,” says Dr. Bloomfield.

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He suggests people first try the following:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications — Sometimes injecting steroids or a lubricant into a joint can bring relief.
  • Modifying activities — If you notice certain activities make your pain worse, easing up on them can help.
  • Using a cane or other aid — This can take weight and pressure off the joints and reduce pain.
  • Losing weight — If people are obese, losing a few pounds or more as needed can help ease the joints.

If those therapies don’t help, and joint pain is preventing you from doing what you want (including sleeping), it may be time to discuss surgery.

“Patients decide when they’re ready and when it fits into their schedule,” says Dr. Bloomfield. “They should plan to be physically limited for about three months after surgery. However, recovery after hip replacement is often quicker.”

What is recovery like?

Recovery after joint replacement is a gradual, sometimes uncomfortable, process. Patients who understand this and expect it are often the best candidates for surgery, says Dr. Bloomfield.

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“It’s not like having a tire changed,” he adds. “You won’t get a new knee and be back to full activities the next week. It requires a lot of physical therapy to restore a full range of motion.”

No ‘right’ age for joint replacement

There is no specific age to have joint replacement. As more young adults are increasingly obese and others increasingly active, joint replacement — even in a 40-year-old — is becoming more common. And you don’t need to wait until you’re completely debilitated to have joint replacement.

“If you wait until you can no longer walk, you’ll miss out on a lot of life,” says Dr. Bloomfield.

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