Hip or Knee Replacement? Not So Fast…

If you’re hav­ing trou­ble walk­ing because of hip or knee arthri­tis, soon­er or lat­er you might think about hav­ing a joint replace­ment.  Hip and knee replace­ments have become two of the surg­eries most fre­quent­ly per­formed by ortho­pe­dists.  And they’ve helped mil­lions of peo­ple enjoy an improved qual­i­ty of life — at least for a few years after the surgery.

Xray of artificial hip

Arti­fi­cial hip joint

But a recent French study asked the ques­tion:  What typ­i­cal­ly hap­pens 3–10 years down the road?  Are there knee or hip replace­ment com­pli­ca­tions?

The results sur­prised even me.

In both the 3 year and 10 year fol­low-up, patients who had under­gone hip or knee replace­ment were in worse shape than those who had nev­er had surgery.

This sur­vey was unable to deter­mine how well those in the surgery group would have fared if they had nev­er had surgery in the first place.  Still, there’s a lot more we’ll need to learn before we have a com­plete under­stand­ing of who should have joint replace­ment and who shouldn’t.

A study like this is one more rea­son to try to avoid the need for surgery in the first place, and to be extreme­ly thor­ough in explor­ing every pos­si­ble alter­na­tive.

And while you’re thor­ough­ly explor­ing hip or knee replace­ment alter­na­tives, here are three more things to won­der about:

1.   The recov­ery from joint replace­ment typ­i­cal­ly requires an intense rehab and exer­cise pro­gram and a grad­ual return to nor­mal activ­i­ty.  What would hap­pen if you start­ed with the intense rehab and exer­cise pro­gram first before you had the surgery?  Maybe some peo­ple would get so much bet­ter, they’d end up not need­ing the surgery after all.

2.    If you have an arti­fi­cial joint, every time you move you grind thou­sands of micropar­ti­cles off the sur­face of your new joint.  They start float­ing around inside.  These micropar­ti­cles are a for­eign sub­stance, total­ly alien to the biol­o­gy of your body’s tis­sues and immune sys­tem.  What hap­pens to those par­ti­cles?  How does you body respond to them?

3.    Long, long before you become a can­di­date for joint replace­ment, you begin to notice the occa­sion­al hip (or knee) ache or stiff­ness.  A com­mon response is to take pain-killers or anti-inflam­ma­to­ry drugs like ibupro­fen, naprox­en, or aspirin.  Doc­tors often pre­scribe these non-steroidal anti-inflam­ma­to­ry drugs (NSI­ADs), or sug­gest over-the-counter ver­sions of them, because they can be effec­tive in reliev­ing pain in the short run.  But here’s the big sur­prise – they make your joints worse in the long runNSAID’s are known to slow down heal­ing.  And they can even pre­vent dam­aged tis­sues from restor­ing them­selves alto­geth­er.

There are alter­na­tives to NSAIDs.  Alter­na­tives that can relieve pain and inflam­ma­tion while actu­al­ly mak­ing your under­ly­ing prob­lem bet­ter, not worse.

Send an email to drlavine@yourbodyofknowledge.com if you’d like more infor­ma­tion.

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About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods.

His website, askdrlavine.com, provides more information about his approach.

Please contact him at drlavine@yourbodyofknowledge.com or at 212-400-9663.

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