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Hips Hurt? Knees Aching? When to Consider Joint Replacement

Charles Turek M.D.
Orthopedist

Chances are you’ve already experienced some tenderness, aching or pain in your hips or knees from arthritis. You might even have felt it long before you turned 65. But when pain gets so bad that it keeps you up at night or makes it difficult to go to the grocery store then you need a doctor’s help, and fast.

"Sometimes pain medication or cortisone shots is all patients need for pain relief," says Orthopedist Charles Turek, M.D. "But when patients see me and they’re limping or having trouble getting in and out of a chair then we take a closer look."

Who Needs Joint Replacement

Dr. Turek looks at x-rays of the affected joint and assesses a patient’s functional impairment. That’s your ability to complete what physical therapists call activities of daily living.

"We need to have a history and a physical examination to give us an idea of how a joint is functioning," says Dr. Turek. "Some people have minimal arthritis which doesn’t look too bad on x-ray, yet they have a lot of trouble getting around. Other people with terrible looking x-rays get around well."

Dr. Turek treats some patients with knee or hip arthritis for years using nothing more than pain medication and injections before he recommends joint replacement.

"What you have with arthritis is rough surfaces grinding on each other," says Dr. Turek. "Joint replacement replaces rough surfaces with smooth surfaces so that it’s not grinding anymore. The operations are very good at alleviating pain and can really make a difference in a person’s life."

Surgery and Recovery

Before joint replacement surgery a medical clearance is required from each of a patient’s doctors. Patients and their family members also take a class where a physical therapist explains what happens in the hospital.

"Speed of recovery really depends on person’s motivation and their physical strength and coordination," says Dr. Turek. "Once the patient is over the acute discomfort we may send them to a rehabilitation unit for a few days. Some patients, especially the elderly, may need up to ten days of rehab. We want the patient to feel that they are stable on a walker, crutches or whatever they’re using for the remainder of their recovery."

The average patient may use a walker at home for two to four weeks before transitioning to a cane for another two to four weeks, according to Dr. Turek. Within three months most patients no longer need any assistant devices.

"Patients should not be afraid of this surgery or feel that they’re too old for it. There is no too old for this procedure," says Dr. Turek. "Hip or knee replacement can make a very significant difference in seniors’ lives and their ability to function and care for themselves."

Categories: Healthy Living,News

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