So you’ve been told you need a joint replacement, now what?
So, you’ve been told you need a joint replacement by your doctor.
Your doctor says, €œWe’ve tried everything, I’m sorry, but you need a joint replacement.” Your first words were probably.”WHAT?!?!?!€.
Soon followed memories of your great-grand elders hobbling around with a cane. Denial sets in. You look for every possible way to avoid having a €œjoint replacement.” You’re smart. You get on the internet and look into every possible treatment short of surgery. Believe me, there are a lot of snake oil peddlers out there just waiting for someone like you!
Let’s take a look at what’s out there and see how those treatments stand up, shall we?
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate preparations, cold laser treatments, stem cell injections, various herbal rubs and capsules, supportive bracing, copper-infused compression sleeves, emu oil creams, anti-inflammatory diets and the list goes on and on. The books, ads and testimonials look great! They all say very enthusiastically that the pain was gone in a short time. These folks claim that they were able to get back to tennis, running, work, etc. All are completely pain-free now. It’s available in every grocery store, health food store, chiropractor’s office, corner pharmacy, reputable online stores, etc. It’s got to be good. Right? No one would buy it if it wasn’t, Right?
Unfortunately, if your joint is bone-on-bone, they are all wrong. None of these capsules, braces or treatments have shown to have any long-lasting or maintainable improvement in treating an €œend stage€ arthritic joint. To be sure, they may help with temporary swelling or pain relief for a short time, but so will a pain pill or a cold pack. None of these products, when examined honestly by x-ray, restore the joint to its normal thickness, appearance, alignment or to the same peak of health as a twenty-year-old joint. Not one can say that when doctors looked at cartilage cells under a microscope, they were amazed at the restoration to a previously healthy state. Why, because they can’t. It is simply not true.
The scary part is, most of these treatments are not regulated by the FDA or any medically-supervised entity. These peddlers circumvent the system legally. Because, in the case of many supplements, if it can’t be shown to be dangerous, they can sell it. But, just because it may not hurt you, does not mean it will help you either. And many times, the perceived pain relief is due to the €œplacebo effect.”
The first pictures to the left shows an x-ray of a normal knee on the right, the left picture has bone on bone arthritis in the outside (or lateral) half of the knee. The second set of X-rays, the image to the left, show a normal hip on the left, and on the right one that has severe arthritis, in this case due to hip dysplasia.
Doctors have been studying arthritis for many years. Even we as doctors are not totally sure what initiates arthritis, although we see it more commonly in families, in joints with previous injuries, and as we age and get heavier. But I can certainly tell you, if we could prevent it, cure it or stop it, we would. And as we doctors age, many of us (or our family members) hear the same words“Sorry, but you need a joint replacement.”
Have you ever watched a police car chase on TV? The getaway car has blown all its tires and lost the rubber, it’s down to bare metal wheels against the pavement and it cannot be safely controlled any longer, the car grinds to a halt..that is your joint without cartilage. It is painfully grinding bone against bone, inflamed, swollen, causing you to limp and they don’t safely support you like they should in any activity. That is no way to live in my opinion.
Painful arthritic joints can rob you of the very reason we live to have a healthy active life and to have fun doing what we love with our friends and families!
Here’s the most important piece of information that I can share with you: If you are being treated for arthritis in your knee, get your joint evaluated early by a well-trained joint replacement specialist, who will take the time to listen to your story, be thorough in an exam, discuss options, and then replace only the surfaces that need to be replaced. With early examination, many times a partial knee replacement is all that is needed€..EVER! Would you change all the tires on your car if only one tire was bad, and if you changed that one tire there was a 9 out of 10 chance that you would never have to replace that tire, or ANY of the other tires?
Unfortunately, joint replacement surgery is still surgery, and no one chooses such unless necessary. But, today’s surgery centers and minimally-invasive surgical techniques can make it much less invasive and safer than back in the €œold days.” Recovery time is much easier and smoother, and preferably done at home. Post-op pain control is much-improved, allowing you to be in your own home sooner. In most cases, you go home on the same or next day and getting back to doing the things you love is much faster as well.
If you have been told that you have bone-on-bone arthritis in your knee, hip, or shoulder, nothing can restore the joint’s alignment and normal function except a joint replacement. So, do it right with a thorough exam by a board-certified joint replacement specialist, with careful selection of the specific implant needed for your joint, and using proven up-to-date surgical techniques and equipment, performed by knowledgeable and skillful hands, in a caring environment for recovery.
I wish you a blessed and active day!
John W. Barrington, MD
To learn more about joint replacement surgery, which includes videos and content to read, visit http://www.posmc.com/specialties/joint-replacement-surgery/