6 Tips to Help Avoid Joint Replacement Surgery
When used as a last resort, many people experience positive benefits from joint replacement surgery. However, it should only be considered as an option when osteoarthritis cannot be managed with other methods. Keep reading to learn more.
What is joint replacement surgery?
Your cartilage is the tough, flexible tissue which lines the surface of joints (where two bones meet) and cushions impact, allowing the joints to move without the bones rubbing together. Osteoarthritis happens when the cartilage around a joint gets worn away, which can be very painful and limit mobility. Osteoarthritis is more common with age - 50% of those over 65 have osteoarthritis - but it can occur at any age.
If non surgical options - like medication, exercise and pain management - don’t seem to be working, some people may opt for joint replacement surgery. During surgery, the damaged cartilage and bone are removed and replaced with prosthetics made out of metal, plastic or ceramic. This artificial replacement has the same shape and movement of the original joint.
“Joint replacement surgery is usually a last resort to help manage the pain caused by arthritis. It's worth speaking with your GP about what options are available and finding out if you are eligible. Keep reading to find out some ways that can help you manage arthritis and potentially avoid joint replacement surgery.
1. Self management
There are various self-management strategies that can be of help in caring for joints. Such things as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating a healthy and joint friendly diet as well as avoiding stress can all help lower the pain of arthritis.
Different things work for different people, so it’s important to settle on something which feels right for you. Some people find that meditation, mindfulness and/or talking therapy may help with stress reduction and relaxation, both of which can help with the physical pain of arthritis and improve quality of sleep.
2. Keep to a healthy weight
The heavier you are, the more pressure you put on your joints. To help avoid more extreme measures such as joint replacement therapy, it’s a good idea to keep to a healthy weight as well as strengthening the muscles around your joints to take further pressure off the cartilage and bones.
Maintaining a healthy weight doesn’t mean never eating the foods you like: it’s making sure you’re eating a balanced diet rich in the nutrients you need to keep your body healthy, while enjoying treats in moderation.
While it might be hard to exercise at first when living with joint pain it's important to remember exercising cannot damage joints but getting them moving can greatly alleviate joint pain. Crucial to this is if you don't move painful joints then the muscles around them can weaken and tighten up. This can lead to greater pain as you simply do not have the means to support the joint in question.
Getting painful joints moving doesn't need to mean joining a gym or taking up running. To get started it's a case of finding something you can do ideally on a daily basis. It might be taking a walk or taking up gardening. All these things can help strengthen muscles around painful joints as well as encourage blood flow to the joint which in turn will bring essential nutrients.
Some low impact exercises which you may enjoy include swimming, yoga and walking. Anything can count as exercise as long as you’re moving around, so get creative and see what you will enjoy doing for the long term. Don’t be afraid to mix things up either - you don’t need to move in the same way every day, just as long as you’re moving! If you have any concerns about how exercise may impact your joints, speak to your doctor or physiotherapist.
4. Hot or Cold Compress
Some people may find that an ice pack wrapped in a tea-towel can help reduce the inflammation surrounding an arthritic joint. However, other people find a heat pack or hot water bottle to be more beneficial. Everyone is different so it's worth trying different methods to find which one works for you. Just because one doesn't work don't assume another won't. You'll feel so much better when you find one that does work for you.
Heat therapy can help warm up joints and relieve stiffness, whereas cold therapy can reduce inflammation, swelling and pain, especially after exercising.
5. Pain Medication
For many people pain medication is often the first port of call. Medication that contains paracetamol and anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, in both tablet and cream form, can help many manage joint pain.
Medication can help ease the pain so you can move through your day more easily. However, recent NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines are now recommending exercise should be prescribed over painkillers. For example, FlexiSEQ is a drug free gel which, when applied to the painful joint, can lubricate the area for pain relief and joint stiffness reduction.
6. Therapy and Physical Support
An occupational therapist is a specialist who can help people with arthritis and other conditions safely participate in physical activities. It’s often a good idea to see an occupational therapist when you’re first diagnosed with osteoarthritis.
Do you have any tips for how people can manage osteoarthritis without joint replacement therapy? Let us know on Facebook.