A joint is a specific point in the body where the ends of two separate bones meet one another. The body has different types of joints, including hinge joints (knees) and ball-and-socket joints (shoulders/hips).
Over time, these joints can wear down due to arthritis, lack of cartilage, a fracture, or other conditions. When people begin having pain and discomfort in these areas, they may want to consider a total joint replacement if a previously prescribed exercise regimen or physical therapy does not seem to alleviate their pain.
Total joint replacement is designed to remove arthritic and damaged joints from the body and replace them with a prosthesis made of plastic, metal, or ceramic. This prosthesis is designed to replace your original joint and function in the same mobile manner of a normal, healthy joint. Total joint surgeries performed at our center include knee and hip replacements, but the procedure can also be performed on shoulder, elbows, wrists, and ankles.
Prior to having surgery for a total joint replacement, it is important to discuss your general health with your primary care physician, and complete any preoperative tests required by your surgeon. This could include a cardiogram or blood tests to help your physicians plan for your surgery. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has a step-by-step guide to preparing from your operation: Preparing for Joint Replacement Surgery.
The actual procedure itself will take just a few hours and is now commonly being performed in an outpatient setting. Patients generally go home as early as the same day or the following morning. During the procedure, the damaged areas of your bone are removed from the joint and replaced with that prosthetic device mentioned above. The new prosthetic joint is designed to mimic movement just like you had before with your healthy joint.
Recovery time varies from person to person, but most often, doctors will encourage you to use your “new joint” very shortly after the surgery. Temporary incisional pain will be experienced due to the surrounding muscles being weak from non-use and tissues repairing after the surgery. The pain should dissipate within a few months as the body adjust to the new joint.
Exercise is a necessary and key component of the recovery process to allow you to restore movement properly and strengthen the new joint. Physical Therapists can also help with this process if recommended by your doctor. Joint replacements should last many years and improve your quality of life by allowing you to do activities pain-free that would have otherwise been impossible.