Do you need a joint replacement? Here are the questions to ask yourself

Denise Dador Image
Sunday, December 1, 2019
How to determine if you need a joint replacement
If you're struggling with pain in your hips and knees from osteoarthritis, here's how to determine if you might need a joint replacement.

Most people struggling with osteoarthritis in their hips and knees are able to manage the condition with weight loss, medication, cortisone injections and physical therapy.

But if those options aren't working, how do you decide if and when replacement is the right move for you?

Sixty-three-year old Kristine Hoffman has the energy of a woman half her age.

But a lifetime of running, gymnastics and dancing took a toll on Kris's hips.

"I couldn't cross my leg, my right leg over my left side anymore," Hoffman said. "There were just a lot of things little by little that I was losing."

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kamala Littleton specializes in hip and knee replacements.

Here are the three questions to ask yourself if you think it's time for new joints:

First, is pain ruining your mood most of the time?

"If it is making you angry or sad or something like that, I think it's time to address it more aggressively," said Littleton.

Do you need constant medication to relieve joint pain? Have you stopped doing the things you love?

"You don't want to go to a movie because you know it's going to be so miserable when you get up after the movie - or fly on an airplane or go on a vacation," Littleton said.

She added that hip replacement surgery is less invasive these days, making recovery easier and faster.

Knee replacement recovery is tougher and requires pre-planning.

Think about whether you have to navigate steps.

Who will drive you to physical therapy?

"You've got to do therapy," Littleton said "You've got to fight like a little marine through this process. And, if you do that, you can be very, very successful," said Littleton.

Hoffman had her right hip replaced in 2005 and her left one done last year.

"I'm just not ready to hang it up. I'm not. I can fix this," said Hoffman.

On her feet and ready for another adventure.

Doctors say because the artificial joints commonly last about 20 years, you really don't want to replace too early.

On the other hand, if you wait so long that you are not mobile, you'll lose strength and endurance which will make recovery more difficult. Littleton said there is no specific age at which she would rule out replacement, but it does depend on the individual patient's health.