knee replacement?

It’s that darned knee of yours—again!

The pain, swelling and stiffness have begun to interfere with your everyday activities. You beg off from taking even a short walk with a friend. You cringe at the prospect of climbing a flight of stairs, knowing the trip back down will be even worse. When your “bum knee” keeps you from simple activities that contribute to your quality of life, it may be time to replace it.

Knee replacement surgery consists of removing damaged bone and cartilage from the knee and leg, and implanting an artificial joint. The procedure works remarkably well in most patients, relieving pain and improving mobility. Some say it takes years off their lives—or at least, their knees. Still, the procedure requires a significant commitment of time and energy to prepare, undergo and recover from surgery: anywhere from three months to a year, most experts say.

What if you’re not ready to make that commitment? When does it make sense to put off the surgery until it’s “bad enough?”

Most orthopedic surgeons recommend getting knee replacement surgery while you are still mobile and have sufficient muscle mass to engage in rigorous physical therapy, which speeds recovery. They say postponing increases your risk for developing medical conditions that can affect your candidacy for knee surgery. Gaining weight, losing muscle mass, or developing diabetes or a heart condition are potential factors that could lengthen recovery time or derail your surgery altogether.

Talk with your doctor about noninvasive treatments you can try before committing to surgery, such as cortisone and/or “gel” injections, physical therapy, or acupuncture. Even temporarily using a cane or bracing the knee can sometimes help recover mobility and reduce pain. But if you’ve tried these methods and your knee pain continues to compromise your quality of life, it may be time for a new and improved knee.

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