Hips and knees are some of the hardest worked joints in your body. The daily wear and tear of walking, jogging, bending, twisting and lifting take a physical toll on them over time that can manifest as pain. Most of the time, this pain is a normal side effect of an aging body. It can be managed with over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication and typically won’t interfere with your day-to-day life.
Some people, however, experience knee or hip pain that can’t be controlled with OTC medication. When this happens, your primary care physician may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon who can discuss possible treatment methods with you.
"Anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, activity avoidance, cortisone and synthetic joint fluid injections are just a few non-operative options," said Dr. Spencer Amundsen of Peak Orthopaedics. "My goal is to exhaust non-operative options before I ever recommend joint replacement."
When deciding whether a patient should consider hip or knee replacement, a surgeon looks for specific signs or symptoms. Here are some of the common signs.
A major consideration in determining whether a patient would benefit from hip or knee replacement is the amount of pain they’re feeling. High levels of pain that don’t respond to NSAIDs or other common pain relief medications indicate surgery could be necessary.
"The most common location for pain from the hip is in the groin, although arthritis can present with pain to the side or back of the hip as well," said Amundsen. "For the knee pain can be present in the front, back, or sides. Occasionally pain will radiate up or down the leg with either hip or knee arthritis. Pain is typically activity-related and relieved with rest."
As the condition affecting your joints worsens, periodic pain may become more frequent and may not be relieved with rest.
Osteoarthritis is a major source of the severe joint paint that can lead to replacement surgery.
It is "a joint disease that happens when the tissues in the joint break down over time," explained the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. "It is the most common type of arthritis and is more common in older people."
Cartilage is meant to cushion your knee and hip joints. When this padding breaks down, smooth bony growths known as osteophytes or bone spurs will occur. As they grow, they can rub against other bone structures causing pain and sometimes restricting movement.
Patients can consider having hip or knee replacement surgery if they have pain or limitations that significantly affect quality of life and if x-rays show significant arthritis.
Difficulty performing everyday tasks
As osteoarthritis progresses, the resulting pain can prevent people from performing everyday acts like checking the mail, walking through the grocery stores or climbing stairs. According to WebMD, other possible causes of severe joint pain that can inhibit daily life include rheumatoid arthritis, bowed legs, knee injuries, and loss of blood flow to the bones in your knees. Only a qualified physician or surgeon can diagnose the source of your joint pain and prescribe the right treatment.
Decreased range of motion
It’s normal to lose some range of motion as you age. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are characterized by joint damage that can limit range of motion.
Healthline advises anyone with a lower-than-normal range of motion to talk with a doctor. If you can’t completely straighten or bend any one of your joints, it’s also time to schedule a visit with your doctor.
Keep in mind that people often aren’t aware of their own limited range of motion. A loved one or friend might notice limited joint movement before you do.
Total knee or hip replacement is not taken lightly, however, there are new minimally invasive surgeries with fewer complications and a quicker recovery time than past procedures.
For more information on knee and hip replacement surgery or to schedule a consultation with a joint pain specialist, make an appointment at Peak Orthopaedic Clinic today.