For many people struggling with joint pain, knowing when to seek help from a surgeon is sometimes difficult. For some, the onset of knee pain is sudden and dramatic, and literally, overnight they find their daily function extremely limited. For most people with knee arthritis, the onset is much more gradual, and they slowly begin to decrease their activity level as pain worsens over time.
Sometimes without even realizing it, they have little by little begun to sacrifice activities that add meaning and enjoyment to life, such as: playing with grandchildren, going on family trips and shopping. They may eventually find that they cannot stay active enough to stay in shape and healthy.
Below is a short list of some decision points, which can help patients know when to seek the advice of an orthopedic surgeon.
- Severe pain limiting activities and enjoyment of daily living: This is the most important indication for surgical consideration and is what most often brings patients to see a doctor in the first place.
- Increasing deformity: Many patients find that their knee becomes deformed over time, either “bowlegged” or “knock-kneed.”
If ignored for too long, some of these deformities can become difficult to correct with surgery.
- Decreasing range of motion: Most of the time, pain experienced by patients with knee arthritis is a result of the inflammation that often accompanies the wear process. This inflammation causes swelling and bone spurs, both of which can decrease a patient’s motion. It can be difficult to regain all of the lost motion even with surgery. Seeking advice from a surgeon before too much motion is lost is important.
- Failure of other methods of pain control such as injections and NSAIDs: Before considering knee replacement, patients
should try other methods of pain control. These include appropriately dosed anti-inflammatories, injections and range-of-motion exercises.
If a patient finds they are beginning to notice any of the issues noted above, it may be time to consider getting some advice from a total joint replacement surgeon. They can assist the decision-making process and help you understand if and how you can benefit from knee replacement.