When Is It Time to Consider a Joint Replacement?

Sep 01, 2023

When Is It Time to Consider a Joint Replacement?

Chronic joint pain from arthritis or a severe, acute injury can make your life miserable. However, joint replacements do have a shelf life — how do you know when it’s time to sign up for surgery?

Whether you’ve spent your life in a profession that incurs repetitive use damage; are an athlete who’s experienced an injury on the field or court; or have been in an accident, causing trauma to a joint, you may be wondering if joint replacement is in the cards for you.

At Advanced Orthopedics & Sports Medicine (AOSM), with locations in Union City and Dyersburg, Tennessee, Dr. Michael CalfeePaxton Sisson PA-C, and the rest of our skilled team can analyze your range of motion and pain levels and help you figure out if it’s time for a joint replacement in your hip, knee, or shoulder.

Joints that may require replacement

Joints most likely to be replaced are the hip, knee, and shoulder. The hips and knees are weight-bearing joints that are highly subject to wear-and-tear through aging. The shoulders are most likely to be damaged by either job requirements or sports, causing acute injury or repetitive use damage. Rarely, a wrist, elbow, or ankle joint may need replacement.

Partial vs. full joint replacement

The knee joint has three compartments, or sections: the medial (inside), lateral (outside), and frontal (patella or kneecap). Some patients only have damage to one compartment, meaning they can have a partial knee replacement. However, most patients have damage to more than one compartment, requiring a total knee replacement.

Hip and shoulder joints have only two sections: the ball and the socket. Patients can have a partial joint surgery that installs a replacement metal ball, or a full replacement that adds a plastic cup for the ball to fit into if the cartilage of the natural socket is too damaged. 

Joint replacement lifespans

Some surgeons don’t recommend joint replacement for younger patients (under 50) since the components in the replacements can wear out, and you’re likely to outlive the new joint. Many doctors prefer to use more conservative methods of treatment to get patients to the age of 65 before replacing a major joint.

Currently, hip and knee replacements typically last 15 to 25 years, while shoulder replacements can be relied on to last 10 years or more. However, joint replacements can be revised or redone, and advances are being made in the materials and processes used for joint replacement. There is every reason to believe that the lifespan of joint replacement components will continue to grow.

When to consider joint replacement 

The most common reason for a person to seek a joint replacement is chronic pain. The most common causes of chronic, severe joint pain are arthritis and severe injury. If pain is intermittent, meaning it can be relieved with ice/heat, rest, and/or over-the-counter painkillers to the point that you’re able to sleep through the night, you probably aren’t at the point of needing a joint replacement. 

The real issue is if joint pain keeps you up or wakes you up at night, and/or is severe enough to affect your mobility for daily activities. If your joint pain doesn’t respond to conservative treatments (like those listed above) or minimally invasive procedures (such as steroid injections), it might be time for a joint replacement.

Think you might need a joint replacement and want to talk to the experts? Just call the AOSM location closest to you, or book an appointment online.