A doctor busts the myths relating to arthritis and joint replacement surgery.

Do you have to think twice before getting up from a chair because of stiff joints? Are you putting on weight because you have become inactive due to a troubling knee or hurting hip? And do you believe that joint replacements are meant only for the elderly; that arthritis is a natural ageing problem?

There are any number of myths associated with arthritis and the need for joint replacement. But it is high time they were busted. The fact is that postponing a joint replacement surgery can not only aggravate the problem but the restriction on movement can also lead to complications like obesity.

Arthritis is a condition when your joints become swollen, stiff and inflamed, causing extreme pain, restricted movement and other health risks. Although you can get arthritis at any joint (or all the joints) it affects hip and knee the most.

Sometimes it can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes, but when the symptoms do not improve with non-surgical interventions, joint replacement surgery should be considered seriously.

Unfortunately, despite medical technology making significant strides in the last decade, people still dread surgical options like ‘joint replacement’, which can restore the normal mobility and strength of the joints. Here are some myths relating to arthritis and the true facts.

Myth 1: Delay joint replacement surgery as much as possible.

Fact: Only an expert surgeon can decide whether a patient should undergo hip replacement surgery or not. In fact delaying joint replacement surgery not only brings down the overall quality of life but also makes post-surgical recovery more difficult. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 1999, arthritis limits one’s activity more than heart disease, cancer or diabetes leading to obesity and other complications.

Myth 2: Arthritis is a natural ageing problem; one should learn to cope with it.

Fact: Yes, millions of people suffer from arthritis across the globe and the burden is increasing every year. But those who choose to seek interventional support are able to lead a healthy productive life. Arthritis is a degenerative disease but not part of a ‘normal’ ageing process. Irrespective of age, medical intervention should be sought to improve the quality of life.

Myth 3: Artificial joints can not give the feel of natural joints.

Fact: This is due to lack of awareness. In the knee, for example, the normal joint has a covering of cartilage over the bones. In the arthritic knee, the cartilage is destroyed, leading to bone rubbing against bone. During surgery, only the surface of bone ends are shaved off and caps are put on the damaged ends, so that the smooth artificial caps rub against each other. Where the joints are actually replaced (hip joints), advances in technology, material, and design ensure that the replaced joint is as natural, comfortable, and flexible as the normal one. If someone feels a difference in movement after surgery, they can undergo rehabilitation to overcome the problem.

Myth 4: One cannot exercise, swim or cycle after joint replacement surgery.

Fact: There is a large spectrum of physical activities that one can easily do after full recovery. Swimming, cycling, walking and other activities can be carried on effortlessly with a ‘replaced’ joint. However, high intensity exercises like jogging, running or playing football or tennis should be avoided as they will put too much strain on joints.

Myth 5: Joint replacements are for elderly.

Fact: In fact, joint replacement is more of a ‘lifestyle restoring’ procedure than just a treatment option since even youngsters can be affected by arthritis. But sometimes even young patients avoid this effective interventional therapy. As a matter of fact, an early (or rather timely) joint replacement surgery not only ensures quicker and better recovery and maximum reinstatement of active lifestyle but also helps prevent other complications.

So, no matter what your age, if your doctor recommends joint replacement surgery, go for it.