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What Happens If You Put Off a Joint Replacement?

After working with thousands of patients from New York and around the world, I recognize that not everybody looks forward to having a knee or hip replaced. I understand why this might be the case, too. The recovery process as well as the procedure itself can seem daunting or even worrisome. Some individuals that I speak with have concerns that they will no longer be able to be as active as they want after a procedure. Others convince themselves that they can deal with a few more years of pain before having a total replacement.

Unfortunately, waiting is not always the appropriate answer when it comes to joint replacement surgeries. While there are other things you can do to relieve joint pain, including exercise, injections, weight loss, and dietary changes, you shouldn’t put off the surgery simply because you are worried about potential negatives. In fact, delaying a procedure can cause more extensive damage to occur, creating more pain, and it can also inflict injury on other parts of your body as they adjust to account for your inability to properly move and function.

It’s important to pay attention to your body and look for signs of damage and decay as time passes. As Sarah, a New York resident notes, you might not even realize the extent of your damage until things are at a tipping point.

“I’d think, Oh, after work I’ll go pick up the tea I like and walk home, but then I’d think, No, I don’t want to walk that far, even though it was only nine blocks,” Sarah said in a recent article with Prevention magazine. Eventually, she says her husband pointed out that she was no longer doing the things that she loved most, and she realized her joints were impacting her more than she thought. When Sarah finally did have a replacement surgery, the muscles around her hip had deteriorated, slowing her recovery. This led to extended physical therapy.

“I appreciate that the surgeon didn’t push me into the procedure,” Sarah told Prevention, “but I wish I’d known that waiting would cause my muscles to slowly atrophy.”

So when is the right time for a replacement? I like to tell my patients that a surgery should take place once everyday activities become unbearable due to pain and inflammation. Before a surgery takes place, we will talk in extensive detail about your current situation, as well as your hopes for the future so that we get the timing of the procedure correct. Take comfort in the fact that I would never recommend a replacement to someone who was not ready or appropriate for the procedure.

So many of my patients have had nothing but positive experiences after their surgery takes place. In fact, many are back to their favorite activities, like ballroom dancing, skiing, gardening, and hiking, in a matter of months. Don’t let a fear of the unknown keep you from having a change that you need. If you have questions or worries, don’t hesitate to reach out for answers.

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