As you age, the knee can become stiff, swollen and painful. This pain is often caused by osteoarthritis, which is caused by breakdown or degeneration of the cartilage that normally cushions your bones.
Total joint replacement may be a solution for joint pain and discomfort. During this procedure, worn-out cartilage is removed and both ends of the joint are resurfaced. The cartilage is replaced with a metal implant that works similarly to your natural joint. Most patients who undergo knee joint replacement feel relief after experiencing aches and pains for years, explained Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Thomas Kay. He says that there are four criteria he addresses in people considering knee replacement surgery – pain level, walking tolerance, walking aid and quality-of-life issues.
Are you a candidate?
Approximately 4.5 million Americans are now living with at least one total knee replacement according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
1. Pain Level
On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being excruciating pain, patients who report a pain level of 7 or higher will benefit from knee replacement surgery. “Pain that keeps you awake or awakens you in the night is a good sign the arthritis in the knee joint has progressed beyond the point of being treated with conservative treatments,” said Dr. Kay. He added that those who have surgery before advanced joint damage occurs tend to recover more quickly and have better outcomes.
2. Walking Tolerance
If even something as simple as getting out of bed makes you ache, much less walking up and down stairs, being moderately physically active, or keeping up with your children or grandchildren, you may be a candidate for a knee replacement. “Many people find it is difficult to walk a block or two or stand for 20 minutes because they have too much knee pain caused by a damaged knee joint,” explained Dr. Kay. “They’ve tried everything else – supplements, over-the-counter medication, joint injections — you name it and their joints still hurt. That tells me it’s time to consider joint replacement.”