If you are over 50 and have been struggling with chronic knee pain for years, it might be time to consider knee replacement surgery. While anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, corticosteroids, and other non-surgical treatments might have kept you going for this long, they will not work forever. If you hope to remain active—or even competitive—into your 60s and 70s, a knee replacement might be the key to success. And the sooner you get it, the more beneficial it could be.
Who Is a Candidate for Knee Replacement?
Knee joint damage and injury can happen to anyone, but athletes, manual laborers, and people with higher Body Mass Indexes tend to experience knee problems at a higher rate than others. If you are young, can walk on a level surface without pain, and still respond well to over-the-counter pain relievers, you are probably not ready for a knee replacement. However, if you are over 50 and are having a hard time with basic mobility, despite trying non-surgical treatments first, you could be a good candidate for knee surgery.
People undergoing knee replacements tend to have one of the following conditions:
- Osteoarthritis. Often referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis, this degenerative condition causes the cartilage that provides a cushion between the bones of the knee joint to break down. Once the cartilage is gone, the bones underneath can be affected as well. The most common cause of osteoarthritis is overuse or injury, so people who put a lot of stress on their knees over the years are prone to getting it.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. A less common cause of knee pain is this autoimmune disease, which causes the body’s immune system to mistakenly attack its own tissue. When the lining of the knee joint is damaged by RA, a knee replacement might be necessary to relieve the pain.
- Knee injury. In some cases, a traumatic knee injury might require a total joint replacement.
At Northwest Extremity Specialists, we offer surgical and non-surgical treatment for chronic knee pain, and we would never recommend a knee replacement to someone who is not a good candidate for the procedure.
What Happens in a Knee Replacement Surgery?
Knee replacement surgery has one of the highest success rates of any surgical procedure performed today and is a highly effective pain management option for patients with chronic knee pain. Around 95 percent of patients report experiencing dramatic pain relief after knee replacement surgery.
In a total knee replacement procedure, your whole knee joint is replaced with a prosthetic device. After removing the damaged cartilage and shaving off a small amount of bone from the joint surfaces, your surgeon will place a titanium implant into your femur at the top of the knee and a second implant into your tibia at the bottom of the knee. The two metal components will come together as a “ball and socket,” with a polyethylene liner between the two parts to allow for smooth gliding. Because all of the parts that were causing you pain are gone, you should experience full mobility and pain relief after recovering from the procedure.
What to Consider When Scheduling Your Surgery
The actual knee replacement surgery only takes about an hour, but recovery can take a month or longer. While you will be able to get up and move fairly quickly, you will need to attend physical therapy sessions to support you as you learn to use your new knee, and you will walk with a walker and then a cane as you get stronger. Given this recovery time, it’s important to be thoughtful when scheduling your surgery. Some factors to consider include the following:
- Your age. You’re not getting any younger, and waiting too long could put you at a higher risk of complications.
- Your current health. Surgical outcomes can be improved if you are at a healthy weight and have chronic health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure under control, so take the time to address these issues before surgery.
- Your work schedule. If there is a time during the year when you are less busy, you might want to target that time period for the surgery.
- Major life events. Do you have a family wedding, big anniversary, special holiday, or birth of a grandchild coming up? Be sure to schedule around the big event so that you don’t miss out.
Discuss Knee Replacement With Our Team
If knee replacement surgery is recommended for you, the skilled orthopedic surgeons at Northwest Extremity Specialists will help you determine the best time to have the procedure. We will evaluate your overall health to ensure the best possible outcome. Call us today at 503-245-2420 to make an appointment in the Portland-area office closest to you.