Knee replacement surgery – when is it time to say yes?

You’ve done everything you can to relieve your constant knee pain: creams and ointments, medication, braces, exercise, physical therapy and more. Nothing brings lasting relief. What do you do now? Is it time to say yes to knee replacement surgery?

Knee replacement offers a reprieve from the limits your knee pain puts on your life. During surgery, the damaged cartilage and bone from your knee joint are removed and replaced with man-made products like polymers and high-grade plastics. For most people, the surgery typically reduces pain, helps their knee perform better and improves their ability to move easily.

Even though you know all the potential benefits, it can be difficult to take the plunge, commit to action, and schedule your surgery. How do you know when the time is right?

When you’re in severe, constant pain that limits your daily activities

Are you in pain every day? Have you run the gamut of remedies, minor procedures, and pills but your pain is still a constant, throbbing presence that makes you hesitate to live an active life? Have you begun to withdraw from social activities due to knee pain?

When your knee is always swollen and inflamed

Are ice packs and heating pads a regular part of your daily routine? Is your knee swollen and puffy? Does it stay that way? Does it get worse with physical activity – even when it is low impact – like grocery shopping or walking your dog?

When you have restricted movement

Does your knee get “stuck” in certain positions? Is it difficult for you to bend and stretch like you used to because your knee just won’t move that way anymore? Have you stopped doing your favorite activities that require knee bending like golf, tennis or gardening because it’s just too difficult?

When your pain medication no longer works

Has your medicine stopped working to reduce your inflammation? Do you still have pain even 20 minutes after taking medicine and elevating your knee?

When you need assistance getting around

Do you reach for a cane as you grab your hat and coat to go out? Is a walker the only way you can make it across the room? Do you need a hand to stand up or maybe even a little help sitting down? Do you have difficulty balancing because your weight is focused on one side?

When you’ve tried other treatments and they didn’t solve the problem

Knee replacement surgery is rarely the first line of defense to heal a bum knee. When cortisone injections, rest, elevation physical therapy and minor procedures don’t give you a permanent solution, knee replacement surgery could be the next step.

When your knee is deformed or misshapen

When your knee bows unnaturally or becomes deformed, knee replacement surgery can help restore your knee’s natural shape and function and get you back to moving again.

If you’re considering knee replacement surgery, you have some options.

  • Talk to your primary care provider. If you don’t have one, you can find one here.
  • Take a seminar to educate yourself on what’s possible. Register here.

As with any chronic health issue, you don’t have to suffer alone. Talk to your friends and family, and most certainly – when you feel the time is right – consult an expert.

About the Author

Whether you're interested in physical fitness, an athlete looking for performance tips, or it's time for a full or partial replacement of knees, shoulders or hips, the Swedish Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Team is committed to providing you with expert advice on how to prevent injury, plan for physical activity and recover from orthopedic procedures. Our mission is to help you live the active lifestyle you want.

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