When is joint replacement surgery needed?

Surgery is usually the last line of treatment, when all other treatments – including physical therapy and medications – have not helped the patient. Joint replacement surgery is a highly effective way of eliminating joint pain, correcting a deformity, and helping improve the patient’s mobility (movement). Joint replacement surgery is also performed to treat advanced arthritis.

People who are considered for joint replacement surgery often have severe joint pain, stiffness, limping, muscle weakness, limited motion, and swelling. Depending on the joint that is affected and the amount of damage, patients may have trouble with ordinary activities such as walking, putting on socks and shoes, getting into and out of cars, and climbing stairs.

What causes joint problems?

The most common causes of the joints not working properly are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. While nobody is certain what causes arthritis, several things may contribute to joint weakening and lead to arthritis, including:

  • Heredity (runs in the family)
  • Problems with the development of the joint
  • Genetic (inherited) tendency to problems with the cartilage
  • Minor repetitive injures
  • Severe trauma to the joint cartilage (the cushioning tissue at the end of the bones)

While being overweight does not necessarily cause arthritis, it can contribute to early joint problems that can get worse quickly.