While many people associate joint replacement with older age, the truth is that you’re never too young to replace a joint that isn’t functioning properly.
A growing number of younger people are choosing replacement, causing the average age for some surgeries to drop significantly.
Understanding the reasons why joints should be replaced sooner rather than later — including what can happen if you wait too long — may help you make an informed decision about whether replacement is right for you.
One of the most common reasons people put off joint replacement is because they think they’re not old enough. Even if they’re having pain or other symptoms, they think they need to wait until they’re older to have surgery. That’s just not the case in many instances.
Weight concerns are other reasons people may delay replacement; they may want to wait until they’re more fit or have a lower BMI before they have surgery. People who have other health conditions may want to focus on managing those conditions before replacing a joint, while still others may want to try non-surgical treatment before considering replacement.
Whatever your reason, discuss your concerns about joint replacement with a physician who can consider all the factors and determine the best time for replacement. Because while things like age and BMI are important, they’re not everything. Ultimately, your decision should hinge on the condition of the joint, which might be ready for replacement before you feel ready for one.
If joint pain is affecting your quality of life and you’re making concessions in activity and enjoyment because of arthritis, then it may be time to have a conversation about replacement. As arthritis progresses, it can cause serious complications such as:
For people who are eligible for surgery, replacing the joint can help stop the progression and prevent these complications.
Fear about recovering from joint replacement is another reason people may put off surgery. In particular, shoulder replacement has a reputation for being very intense, but in reality, recovery is relatively easy in most cases.
Preparing for surgery has mental and physical components. You want to address misconceptions and get excited about your new joint, and you want to make sure you’re physically fit. There are a lot of expectations for rehabilitation after surgery. Speaking to your doctor about those expectations, and giving the process your all, can help assure that you have a good outcome.
Recovery is a team effort, working together with caregivers — be they friends, family, or medical professionals — to make sure everyone is on the same page and ready to support you will also help the healing process after joint surgery.