Joint Preservation vs. Replacement: What’s Your Best Option? – Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic (blog)

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Aug 23 2017

If you have recurring or chronic joint pain, you may think joint replacement surgery is your only option for relief. However, you may want to explore several less invasive options first to helpmaintain mobility as you age.

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Withmillions of baby boomers in the United States wanting to stay active into their 60s, 70s and beyond, much recent research has focused on joint health and replacement technology.

Experiencingjoint pain doesnt automatically mean that you should have a joint replacement. Joint replacement surgery is generally performed for late stages of degenerative arthritis (also called osteoarthritis), after other options have failed. Most causes for hip pain can be treated with far less invasive options.

So howdo you know your arthritis or other joint damage needs attention? In general, you should see a doctor if your joint pain limits your activities for more than three days without improvement, or you have recurring episodes of the same pain over several weeks or months.

Read on to find out where you fall on the continuum of joint care.

You can damage a joint suddenly. Orjoint damage may come on gradually, bothering you periodically at first and becoming more painful over time.

The causesofjoint pain may include:

Most joint causes for joint pain never require surgery. However, even in the case of osteoarthritis, surgery is not the first choice. Whatever the cause, youll want to preserve your joints for as long as you can.

This is particularly true if you are a younger, active person.

Joint replacement has gotten much safer and faster to recover from. You may leavethe hospital just a couple of days after surgery, but these are serious operations that are not to be undertaken lightly, says orthopedic surgeonAnthony Miniaci, MD.

Joint replacementparts last longer than they used to. But they are mechanical and subject to loosening, stiffness, complications and infection. These problems may lead to follow-up surgeries down the road.

Most people now live into their 80s. Many of the next generation will live to be older than 100, Dr. Miniaci says. If someone in their 50s is very active and has knee or hip joint replacement, they may need one or two more operations in their lifetime, so we try to avoid it until later if possible.

The goal of preservation is to prevent injury, reduce inflammation and preserve cartilage, Dr. Miniaci says. These factors figure in when your physician weighs your options:

Some joint preservation procedures are newer and considered experimental, Dr. Miniaci says. Physicians have used other preservation techniques for decades. Options, he says, include:

If youve unsuccessfully attempted conservative treatment or if damage to the cartilage or bone is beyond repair, remember that joint replacement is proven to be safe and highly effective in the right patient. This is still often is your best option.

This surgery can dramatically relieve your pain and improve your joints function. However, there are always potential risks and complications with surgery.

Talk with your doctor about the best options and long-term strategies for you. Preserving your joints and your activities and lifestyle is the basis for the partnership that is best for you.

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Joint Preservation vs. Replacement: What's Your Best Option? - Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic (blog)

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