Joint Preservation vs. Joint Replacement: Maintaining Mobility
Today, many older adults want to stay healthy and active. While maintaining mobility as you age is a worthy goal, chronic joint pain due to arthritis in the hip and knee can get in the way of the lifestyle you desire. Fortunately, there are many treatment options available that can help ease this pain.
Joint preservation reduces joint pain without replacing the joint. The doctor strives to keep your native joint and cartilage for as long as possible by maintaining motion, preventing injury and reducing inflammation. Weight management is particularly key to preserving your joints. Achieving and maintaining an optimal weight through diet and exercise reduces stress on the hip and knee joints, lessening wear and tear. Building and conditioning your muscles is another good strategy for decreasing joint stress, since muscles serve as a kind of “shock absorber.”
Other non-surgical joint preservation procedures include injections, which can help to reduce inflammation, increase lubrication within your joint, or do both. Stem-cell injection, also known as a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection, is a relatively new procedure in which the patient’s own blood cells are used to speed up recovery from injury or joint damage. Further research is needed to determine how effective this procedure is in treating conditions like arthritis.
Surgical joint preservation is sometimes an option. Joint re-alignment procedures are generally reserved for younger, active patients or laborers with mild to moderate arthritis. Knee arthroscopy may show some limited benefits in patients with mild to moderate arthritis. Cartilage transplant procedures are not recommended when arthritis is present.
Sometimes, surgery is the best option. Fortunately, joint replacement is one of the most successful surgeries performed today, and resolves symptoms completely.
There are two different kinds of replacement procedures: total and partial. Total joint replacement Involves replacing all cartilage with artificial implants that mimic your native joint. Partial replacement Involves replacing only the worn-out part of the joint while maintaining what’s in good condition and preserving the ligaments. Partial replacement results in a more natural-feeling knee motion, a less-invasive procedure, less pain and a shorter hospital stay. Unfortunately, not all patients are candidates for this procedure. Talk to your orthopedist to see if this is an option.
Due to newer surgical techniques, recovery from joint replacement is much safer and faster. You may even be able to leave the hospital on the day of your surgery. These advancements have also led to longer-lasting implants, meaning less risk of future procedures. As with all surgeries, there are some risks. Fortunately, these are relatively rare, and your surgeon will discuss these risks with you in detail.
If you have joint pain that limits your daily activities, or have frequent joint pain over a long period, consult an orthopedist who specializes in the joint giving you trouble to see what care options are available.
Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at UCFHealth.com, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.
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