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Thinking about your joint replacement journey

What’s it like to have a joint replacement?

This is one of the more common questions I hear among patients in my New York clinics. If you have never had a major surgery, do not know anyone who has had a joint replacement, or are generally unfamiliar with the process, the concept can seem a little overwhelming. WBUR, a Boston affiliate of NPR, recently had a conversation with Bruce, an individual who underwent a double knee replacement. Bruce, who had bow legs prior to his procedures, walked listeners through his experience. Although all patients have unique situations, and therefore unique treatment plans and recovery scenarios, he made some helpful observations.

First, Bruce discusses how he knew it was time for a procedure. For him, the decision came after years of pain medication and shots that simply weren’t working anymore. This is pretty common among individuals suffering from bone-on-bone friction or arthritis. Over-the-counter and prescribed medications can be helpful, but they can’t prevent an inevitable surgery forever. When I speak with patients, the tipping point is usually when they are no longer able to do the things that they love without feeling challenged by aches and pains. Sometimes, they even struggle with daily activities, like getting in and out of the tub, walking the dog, or unloading the dishwasher, because their bad joint gets in the way and complicates things.

Bruce also talks about his recovery, emphasizing the importance he placed on physical therapy. “I treated physical therapy as my religion,” Bruce noted in the interview. It’s true that sticking with your physical therapy routine after a procedure can help you gain strength faster and more safely. In fact, you might do physical therapy the day after or the very same day as your procedure. You’ll be partnered with an expert therapist who will help you develop your exercise routine and know how to measure your progress. Physical therapy also includes working out and getting ready for your new joint in advance of the surgery. This can help build up muscle that you will depend on later and also help you shed any extra pounds that would put unnecessary amounts of pressure on your updated hip or knee.

Finally, Bruce focuses on how to select the right doctor. He notes that outsiders recommended he asked nurses for their thoughts. While this is a great idea, I think it’s important to ask everyone! Check online, talk with friends and family members, and look for information in publications about “top doctors.” Explore your potential physician’s website for patient testimonials and credentials. And never be afraid to ask doctors about their work history and areas of expertise. It’s important that we have open conversation, and that you were fully confident in your choice.

As you move forward with your joint replacement journey, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask us any questions you may have. Feeling prepared is important, and we want to help you have the best treatment possible.

Posted in: Joint Replacement

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