Every day, all across the country, orthopedic surgeons replace thousands of knee and hip joints. But experts say there should be more. The number of knee and hip replacement surgeries has increased steadily over the years as baby boomers age and obesity has become epidemic.
But many people who need a joint replacement delay their surgery. The reasons to put off surgery are as diverse as people themselves. Whether the joint has been damaged by an injury, osteoarthritis, age or a weight problem, the decision to have a joint replaced is a difficult one for many.
A study of people before and after knee replacement showed they go through a series of emotions before agreeing to the surgery. First, we go through a sort of denial. You’ve been told by your specialist that you should have the surgery, but you just can’t quite act on it. Deep down, you hope that it isn’t really necessary, or that your condition isn’t bad enough for such a drastic procedure.
Or maybe you just keep putting it off. You want to wait until after a holiday or a vacation. Or you’re waiting for the newer model of the artificial joint you saw on the Internet. You can come up with dozens of reasons to delay surgery, but you’re only putting off the inevitable.
Anxiety over “what ifs” is also a common factor. You start to worry about what could happen, and this can become overwhelming. What if it doesn’t work? What if something goes wrong? Talk to your doctor about your apprehensions and fears. He or she can help you to overcome them.
Sometimes people are afraid of giving up control of their lives. You will lose some of your independence during your recovery period, and you’ll have to rely on others to help you with everyday living. That’s not an easy thing for a lot of people, but accepting this fact and learning to take help from others is essential to your recovery.
Probably the most common reason people delay joint replacement is fear of the pain. You are already in pain with your damaged joint, but the thought of the postoperative pain can be terrifying. When you realize that pain during recovery is temporary, it becomes a little easier to face. The whole point of having a joint replaced is to end the pain and restore function. Your doctor will give you pain medication to control your discomfort during recovery, and physical therapy will also help. As you heal and restore strength, the pain will subside, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this sooner.
Keep in mind that the longer you wait, the more damage there is to your joint. The earlier you can replace your damaged joint, the easier the surgery. The decision to have surgery should be made after carefully considering all the factors, and an honest discussion with your doctor can be helpful. Together, you can examine your fears and answer any questions. When you have all the facts, you can make an informed and appropriate decision.