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When to get a Knee Replacement

Do you have pain in your knees when you walk, hike, or sit down? Surgery is a last resort for many, but you can make your condition worse by putting off a knee replacement. Knee replacement surgery can help relieve pain and restore function in severely diseased knee joints. While the idea might be scary, knee replacements are extremely common. In fact, more than 1 in 10 Americans will have a knee replacement by the time they’re 80. So, how do you know when it’s time?

When to Consider Knee Replacement Surgery

In many cases, your doctor will recommend alternative treatments like physical therapy and exercise before suggesting surgery. If you’re overweight, your doctor will recommend losing weight before considering a knee replacement, since weight loss can often reduce knee and other joint pain. If these alternative methods don’t work, knee replacement may be recommended. Here’s what you should think about when considering surgery:

  • Your pain isn’t improving. If you’ve tried alternative methods like medication and physical therapy but your pain is still persistent, a knee replacement may be your only option for long-term relief.
  • Your knees feel stiff and swollen. If your knee or knees are constantly swollen despite using anti-inflammatory medicines, it may be because of degeneration of cartilage in your knee. Swelling is a sign that your joints are not responding to other treatments.
  • You have arthritis. Most people who have knee replacement surgery have some form of arthritis, which wears down the cartilage in your knees. As there’s no cure for arthritis, many have to resort to surgery.
  • You’ve had a knee injury. This can include any type of injury that has affected your mobility, including muscle tension injuries, ACL and MCL injuries, and more.
  • You have pain when you’re resting. Knee pain often gets worse when you’re active, but if you have pain when you’re sitting or lying down, surgery may be needed to treat the pain.
  • You want to remain physically active. Artificial knee joints can last 15 to 25 years. If your knee pain is preventing you from doing the things you love—like hiking, running, or going to the gym—a knee replacement can help.
  • Your pain prevents you from doing everyday tasks. If you can’t simply walk up and down the stairs without experiencing excruciating pain, you may be a good candidate for surgery.
  • You want long-lasting relief. After knee replacement surgery, the pain goes away for as many as 90% of patients.

How to Prepare for Recovery

If you and your doctor decide knee replacement surgery is the right decision, you’ll need to prepare for your recovery. You may need to use crutches or a walker for several weeks after your procedure. Make sure you have a ride home from the hospital and someone to help with everyday tasks, such as cooking, bathing, doing laundry, and running errands.

You can make your home safer during recovery by doing the following:

  • Create a living space on one floor as climbing the stairs can be difficult.
  • Install safety bars in your shower or bath.
  • Get a stable chair with a footstool to elevate your leg.
  • Get a toilet seat riser with arms if you have a low toilet.
  • Get a stable bench or chair for your shower.
  • Remove or tape down any loose rugs or cords to avoid trips and falls.
  • Make sure everything you will need can be accessed without bending down low.
  • Place night lights in hallways and rooms that get dark.
  • Practice using a cane, walker, or crutches.

If you’re considering whether a knee replacement is right for you, we can help. The Frederick Health Orthopedics & Sports Medicine team combines passion with advanced knowledge to provide you with comprehensive care. Our board-certified and board-eligible doctors specialize in high-quality orthopedic treatment. Request an appointment today by visiting our website or calling 301-663-9573.