Joint replacement surgeries have evolved significantly, yet persistent myths often deter individuals from considering this effective solution for joint pain. Dr. Jonathan Gillig, a joint replacement expert at Resurgens Orthopaedics, addresses and debunks prevalent myths surrounding joint replacements, providing clarity and empowering you to make informed decisions about your joint health.
Myth 1: Pain in your joints is just a part of growing older.
Dr. Gillig emphasizes that chronic pain is not an inevitable aspect of aging. He states, "Forty to fifty years ago, that was the case. But now, we have people playing pickleball and golf into their 80s and 90s. Joint pain is not something you have to accept as a natural part of getting older. Just like we've found medication to help manage high blood pressure, medical advancements in joint replacement allow us to treat arthritis to the point that it's no longer symptomatic."
Myth 2: Joint replacements only last 10 years, so wait as long as you can before you get one.
Contrary to the misconception that joint replacements only last 10 years, Dr. Gillig highlights the durability of modern joint replacements. He clarifies, "All these myths come with some semblance of truth. The plastic that we had back in the 90s wasn't a great quality. Now we have plastic that's had dramatic improvements. That 10-year lifespan has now increased significantly where we are not as concerned about its longevity. It is not uncommon for joints to last 25 years or longer nowadays."
Myth 3: I'm too young/too old for joint replacement.
Age should not be the sole determining factor for joint replacement. Dr. Gillig emphasizes the importance of assessing functional limitations rather than adhering to age-related stereotypes. He notes, "For people on the younger side, the question isn't 'Am I too young for a joint replacement?' but 'Would you rather be able to do the things you love now, or would you rather deal with the pain and be limited in your functions until you do the replacement at a later time?'" Instead of focusing on a number, consider your level of functionality. Arthritis is not restricted by age, and it appears at different ages for everyone. If you can no longer do what you love, regardless of age, joint replacement may be a viable tool to get you back to your daily life.
Myth 4: You won't be able to participate in sports after a joint replacement.
Contrary to common rumors, modern joint replacements enable individuals to resume an active lifestyle, including participating in sports. Dr. Gillig debunks the myth that joint replacements limit your ability to engage in physical activities. "Again, this goes back to the 90s when the plastic wasn't as good as it is now. It used to be that the more intense the activities you performed, the quicker your joint replacement would wear out. Now, with higher-quality implants, there's really no restriction. There's no evidence or research to show that someone more active is going to wear out their joint any quicker than someone who's not as active."
Myth 5: A joint replacement is "one-size-fits-all" and may not work for me.
Joint replacement procedures are not one-size-fits-all. Dr. Gillig explains the precision involved in customizing each joint replacement to the patient's anatomy. He states, "We have many different sizes, and each are within millimeter increments of each other. We can get our implants within millimeters of your native bone to give each patient a custom solution. I like to get X-rays before every surgery so that I find exactly the correct size for each patient's bone. It's not one size fits all, it's very specific to each patient."
Myth 6: Joint replacement is the only option for joint pain.
When it comes to treating arthritis, you have multiple options including alternative treatments and partial replacements. It's not just about total replacement; it's about tailoring the solution to the individual based on the severity and location of joint pain. Dr. Gillig emphasizes, "Ultimately, I tell every patient 'I'm never going to tell you that you must get a joint replacement. You'll come to me if the conservative options aren't working, and you feel like you want to take the next step towards surgery. Many people can go years with their pain being managed by our extensive nonoperative treatment options.'"
Myth 7: You won't be able to walk for weeks afterward.
Another popular myth is that joint replacement leads to a prolonged recovery period in the hospital, and months to get back to normal life. Dr. Gillig assures us that advancements in surgical techniques and rehabilitation protocols enable patients to walk shortly after the procedure. He notes, "When people saw their grandparents get a knee or hip replacement, they stayed in the hospital for a week and six months to a year to recover. Now, people are walking the same day of their surgery."
Myth 8: Joint replacement has a high risk of complications/failure.
Addressing concerns about risks, Dr. Gillig highlights the success rates of joint replacement surgeries. He explains, "There's about 95% patient satisfaction with a hip replacement. The knee replacements are a little lower at 80-90% satisfaction." Complications are rare, and advancements in surgical techniques have significantly reduced the risks associated with joint replacement. Overall, joint replacement procedures are considered very successful.
Myth 9: You won't be able to get a joint replacement if you're overweight.
While weight is a factor to consider, it doesn't necessarily disqualify you from joint replacement. Dr. Gillig explains, "There have been a lot of studies that show that there's an incremental relationship between risk of complications and BMI. So previously, doctors would require that their patients lose weight before a hip or knee replacement. I think all of that was an abundance of caution to say, 'Hey, we want to set everybody up for a successful surgery, with no increased risk of a complication.' That's something we are still cognizant of, but now we open the conversation with our patients about their personal risk factors, how to improve them, and what they are comfortable moving forward with."
Just like age, BMI is just a number. Dr. Gillig focuses on working with his patients to see progress and improvement to optimize conditions for a successful joint replacement rather than fixating on a specific BMI number. He stresses, "Even if you think you're too heavy to get a joint replacement, still go in and see somebody. There are often tools you haven't thought of to help you lose weight."
Do any of these myths apply to you?
We hope this conversation empowered you to make an informed decision about your joint health. If you are looking to start your journey towards pain relief, schedule an appointment online.