We all encounter joint pain from time to time in our lives. Whether it’s from an athletic injury, overworking our bodies, forgetting to stretch before getting back into an exercise regimen, or something else. For most New Yorkers, these aches and pains decrease over time and disappear with rest, ice, compression, elevation, and other at-home strategies. Still, sometimes aches and pains can foreshadow a bigger problem.
Often, my patients who are ready for a hip or knee joint replacement come in after experiencing painful warning signs that something is no longer right. So how can you tell if an ache is a temporary inconvenience or a sign of something worse to come? There are no foolproof tests, but here are a few points to factor in when you are wondering if a joint replacement is in your future.
Where the pain is located
Almost half of all Americans deal with some form of arthritis by the time they turn 65, and most joint replacements can be, to some degree, attributed to arthritis. Keep in mind that the pains that lead to replacement joints are quite targeted. If you feel pain all over your leg or waist, your condition might be related less to the joint itself and more to the general muscle tissue. Additionally, consulting with your doctor and undergoing some basic testing can help you rule out if the pain is being caused by a nerve or vascular problem.
How long it has been going on
All bodies are unique, so there is no precise measurement for how normal it is for an ache to last. However, once pain becomes chronic and limits your activity, even after treatments and rest, you should consider discussing your problem with a professional. In general, muscle aches due to overuse feel better after taking breaks or getting a massage. In contrast, arthritis pain, which can lead to joint issues, hurts regardless of your activities and doesn’t seem to dissipate. Arthritis aches can even strike when you are resting, leading to interrupted sleep sessions.
Arthritis issues come up with more than just pain. You may experience low-grade fevers, fatigue, and warmth in the area of concern.
Other options aren’t cutting it
Undergoing a joint replacement is usually a last resort and should be treated seriously with expert opinions taken into consideration. Before you take the plunge, think about trying physical therapy, increased exercise, and weight loss to alleviate pressure on your joints, and even injections or over-the-counter medications to relieve pain. If these treatments aren’t giving you the results you need to function, you’ll probably recognize that it is time for a replacement procedure.
As you considering the pros and cons of having a joint replacement or are concerned about having one down the line, don’t be afraid to reach out with any questions you have about the process or your situation. Today’s techniques are quite reliable and can be done with robotic assistance that leads to minimal scarring and quicker healing times than with traditional methods.