Fact vs. Fiction: Learn the Truth about Joint Replacement
Brian Parsley, M.D.
Are myths about joint replacement stopping you from getting relief from nagging joint pain? Don’t be fooled. When pain in your knees or hips interferes with your daily routine, it’s time to learn the facts about life-changing options for pain relief.
“Many Houstonians suffer from joint pain, and their fears – that are untrue – can prevent or postpone them from seeking help,” says Brian Parsley, M.D., affiliated with the Memorial Hermann Orthopedic & Spine Hospital.
“Our grandparents and great-grandparents used to accept living with the limitations of debilitating pain,” explains Dr. Parsley. “When Medicare passed in 1963, the average life expectancy was 65 and now it is 82. Today, individuals live longer and enjoy a more active lifestyle, and they don’t have to live with pain.”
Dr. Parsley specializes in total joint reconstruction, with an emphasis on hip and knee issues and injuries, as well as the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis. The team of affiliated specialists at Memorial Hermann Joint Center’s eight locations is trained to provide an individualized treatment plan for each patient, offering solutions and information that separate the facts from fiction.
- I’m too young/old for joint replacement
“Age is relative when it comes to joint replacement,” says Dr. Parsley. “There is no magic age for joint replacement and it’s not unheard of for a 20-year-old or a 95-year-old to benefit from joint replacement. The best time for joint replacement is when you are experiencing chronic pain and are no longer able to enjoy an active lifestyle. Consider your quality of life. If you have difficulty walking and enjoying normal daily activities, it is time to explore options for relief.”
There are patients today in their 90s, says Dr. Parsley, “who are still healthy, live independently and they can get pain relief and continue to live independently.”
- Joint implants don’t last very long
New, innovative materials make implants more dependable and long lasting, and open the door of opportunity for patients, both young and old.
Dr. Parsley acknowledges that it used to be true that implants did not last past 10 years. “With advances in implant materials and design, hip implants can last 25 to 30 years and knee implants for approximately 15 to 20 years. For most people, this is a lifetime.”
The good news is that most patients enjoy a better level of function and less pain after surgery. “These benefits have a powerful impact on a person’s mindset,” he adds.
- It’s best to wait to see a doctor when I can’t walk anymore
A lot of problems start small, and if a patient waits too long, the problem can become worse. “The cause of your pain in your knee or hip may be easy to solve and you may only need a joint injection,” explains Dr. Parsley. “Surgery is not always the best option and we always explore nonsurgical treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications or physical therapy. We may recommend you try a walking aid or lose a few pounds to take some of the burden off of your joints.”
Many patients wait too long to see a doctor. “If you wait too long, there may be other health issues we need to consider. The patient is also extending the months, and possibly years, of chronic pain. I don’t know how many times I have heard a patient say after joint replacement – ‘I feel great! Why did I wait so long to take care of this?’”
- Recovery from joint replacement is long and painful
“There are many reasons why recovery from joint replacement is faster now,” notes Dr. Parsley. “There are better surgical techniques and better instruments, and our incisions are much smaller. We have better pain management and this leads to a more rapid recovery.”
Most patients are out of bed faster, usually the same day of surgery, and back to normal activities within a few weeks. Patients can usually return to moderate activities such as walking, biking or swimming in four to six weeks, with full recovery extending up to six months. Other patients may recover sooner. Recovery is often up to the patients and their willingness to work hard in physical therapy.
“I recommend that individuals think about their quality of life,” adds Dr. Parsley. “Be smart about learning your options and make sure your decisions are based on facts, not myths.”
Memorial Hermann Joint Centers are conveniently located throughout the Greater Houston area: Bellaire, Greater Heights, Katy, Memorial City, Southeast, Southwest, Sugar Land and The Woodlands.
To learn more, call (713) 272-1888.