5 Signs It’s Time for Joint Replacement Surgery

Nauman Akhtar, MD, is board-certified in orthopaedic surgery. He specializes in arthritis and joint replacement and serves as Medical Director of the Inova Loudoun Hospital Joint Replacement Program.


If you’re living with arthritis, you are all too familiar with pain and stiffness in your joints. As those symptoms worsen over time, you might be wondering whether a joint replacement is the answer.

But how do you know when it’s time? Check out these 5 signs it might be time for a hip replacement, knee replacement or other joint replacement surgery.

  1. Your pain is taking over.

Pain and swelling are common signs of arthritis, both in people with osteoarthritis (which is caused by wear and tear to the joints over time) and inflammatory arthritis (autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis that damage the lining of the joints).

Consider how difficult it is to live with the pain. Is it getting increasingly worse? Is it affecting your mood or interfering with your sleep? Are you relying too much on pain medications, which can be risky or harmful to your health? These are clues your current treatment strategy isn’t going far enough. 

  1. You have difficulty with everyday activities.

If you have to give up running marathons because it’s too hard on your knees, that’s disappointing. If you can no longer do necessary activities like climb stairs, walk the dog or bend to put on your socks without help, it’s another matter altogether. When arthritis interferes with the activities of daily life, it might be time to consider joint replacement surgery.

  1. You’ve exhausted your treatment options.

We have a number of tools for treating arthritis symptoms: anti-inflammatory medications and injections of cortisone or hyaluronic acid, the use of braces and canes, physical therapy and even weight loss.

Not every option is right for each patient. Some people might take medications for other conditions that interfere with injections or anti-inflammatories. Others might have back problems that make physical therapy difficulty. It’s important that doctors tailor the treatment to the patient. But if you’ve tried all the recommended treatment options and are still suffering, you might be a good candidate for joint replacement surgery.

  1. You’re ready to take on surgery and recovery.

Joint replacement surgery can be extremely effective, but it’s not for everyone. Your doctor will make sure you’re healthy enough to undergo an operation. He or she might recommend that you lose weight or quit smoking to prepare for surgery. And you’ll have to commit to rehabilitation and physical therapy after surgery as you heal and regain joint function.

  1. You just feel like it’s time.

In the past, we’ve typically told patients to put off joint replacement surgery as long as they could. Some doctors even tell patients they’re too young for surgery. These days, the decision to pursue joint replacement surgery has more to do with your symptoms, and less to do with your age.

As surgical techniques and joint implants have improved, these procedures have become safer and less invasive. With our new robotic surgery system, we can even perform knee replacement surgery on an outpatient basis for some patients.

Ultimately, joint replacement surgery is a question of quality of life. If you’re feeling down, missing out on social events, skipping activities you enjoy and having difficulty doing regular activities, talk to your doctor about whether you’re a good candidate for surgery.

Learn more about the Inova Loudoun Hospital Joint Replacement Program, a Center of Excellence for hip and knee replacement.


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