A person holds their knee due to aching joints.
Don’t put off critical care for your aching joints; your quality of life will suffer. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Don’t wait to replace painful joints just because you think you’re too young.

That’s one mistake C. Christopher Sherry, DO, orthopaedic surgeon with Spectrum Health Medical Group, sees patients make frequently.

“Once we exhaust conservative treatments, I tell patients with end stage degenerative/arthritic changes of the knee or hip that waiting five to 10 years is not worth it, especially if they don’t have any quality of life,” Dr. Sherry said.

“If they are having severe pain and aren’t able to do the things they want to, then it’s time to consider joint replacement surgery,” he added.

Most of Dr. Sherry’s patients are referred for chief complaints of pain, swelling and restricted range of motion in joints such as the knee or hip. This can be related to osteoarthritis or an acute injury. Initial treatment options are typically conservative and can include elements such as:

  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Physical therapy and a home exercise program to reduce stress in the affected area
  • Bracing to release pressure in joints
  • Cortisone or similar injections to help lubricate the joint and reduce inflammation

If the pain from end stage arthritic changes of the joint becomes more frequent and inhibits daily activities, then it’s time to consider replacing it. The technology and materials used in the manufacture of replacement joints today has improved drastically over the past 10 years, but they do have a life span, Dr. Sherry said.

“Our goal with knee and hip replacement surgery is to have a painless joint with good range of motion,” he said. “We expect patients to get back to their previous normal lifestyle.

“But, we do try to keep patients from returning to repetitive, high-impact activities like running, where you are harder on the joint,” he said.

Data shows that patients who are stronger and more flexible before surgery are more apt to see a good outcome after surgery, Dr. Sherry said. As such, he often recommends patients work to gain strength and enhance their range of motion in preparation for surgery, as it can position them for a seamless recovery.

“We will get patients up and working with physical therapy the day of joint replacement surgery and will continue that regimen after the patient returns home,” Dr. Sherry said. “We tailor the recovery program to each patient and their ability and needs.

“It always strikes me how well patients do with joint replacement surgery,” Dr. Sherry said. “A patient who had crippling knee or hip pain before surgery can walk again with confidence.”