While joint replacements are extremely common and have a very high success rate it’s still recommended that they be the last resort option. Surgery puts a lot of stress on the body and even if the results are positive, it’s not many doctors’ first choice on how to treat joint issues.
Some joint replacements come at the end of a long road where precautions weren’t taken to minimize risk. Here are some pre-emptive ways to make sure that joint replacement surgery is truly the best option and the one furthest down the line.
Lose Some Weight – Being overweight or obese can contribute to joint pain and joint damage. Carrying a lot of extra weight puts a strain on your entire body including your joints, particularly your knee and hip joints. Over the years of this, the joints can be worn down and eventually require a total joint replacement. Obesity can also lead to complications during and after joint replacement surgery. While it isn’t necessary to be extremely thin to avoid these complications studies do show that some healthy weight reduction can put off a major surgery for some time and in fact improve the flexibility of joints.
Treat your Joints with Care – This can be as simple as straightening your posture, reducing high impact exercise, or even getting a good pair of supportive shoes. We use our joints every day and a lot of times don’t realize we’re treating them as if they’ll last forever. Athletes, in particular, should pay attention to the way in which their work out and training routines impact their joints. Be sure to stretch thoroughly, ice joints after strenuous use, and wear proper protective gear such as pads when needed. For non-athletes, this may mean being aware of how you lift and carry heavy things, or limiting how many times you bend over at the waist. If possible try to also “share the load” and not rely on your dominant side’s joints to bear the weight of every single task.
Treat Underlying Causes – Aside from overuse or injury, joint replacements may come as a result of complications with another illness. The most common illnesses that affect joints in these cases are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. These illnesses have many treatment options and it’s important to follow your doctor’s advice and take any medications that will avoid further pain and damage to your joints. It’s also a good idea to restrict or cut out certain foods that will cause these conditions to flare up, such as dairy, and to keep your joints bundled against the cold as they tend to respond poorly to cold weather.
While these precautions won’t always guarantee you’ll never need surgery they will potentially delay it for a lot longer or make the surgery itself less severe due to less damage.