Arthritis is usually a chronic (long-term) and progressive disease that can cause pain, disability, and deformity. Surgery may be recommended by your doctor to improve your quality of life or when other measures are not sufficient to relieve symptoms.
Previously, people resorted to surgery as a last resort if other treatments failed and when there was severe pain. Now, some doctors recommend surgery before the patient is completely debilitated or severe joint injuries occur.
There are several points to consider prior decision to operate, including the benefits and potential risks.
Benefits of surgery
- Pain relief: Depending on the type of arthritis you have, you may experience constant pain in the affected joints or during the movement. Although, some pain can be alleviated with heat and cold treatments, exercise, splints and drugs, the amount and intensity of pain can dramatically be reduced by surgery as well.
- Increased range of motion: If you wait until the joint is severely damaged before surgery, some movement can be recovered, but the extent of it will be different in each person. After the operation, it will gradually improve the joint function along with this you need to take time and undergo physical therapy to regain a greater range of joint motion.
- Better use of joints: Arthritis can, over time, cause inflammation and damage to bone and cartilage. This results in loss of use of the joint, which will hinder the performance of daily activities. If your joints have reached this stage, surgery may help you to regain the use of the joints.
- Joint alignment: Joints in the knees and feet can be deformed because of arthritis. Some types of surgery can help realign and straighten the joints, thus improving it’s ability to move or use.
Common Myths about the surgery for arthritis
There are several misunderstandings about what a surgery can or cannot achieve. Knowing in advance what to expect will help you along the way to a successful recovery if you decide to go forward with it.
Some of the myths are:
- The operation itself will make up the joint. Surgery is not the end of the process. After surgery, you need to do follow up treatments such as physical therapy, exercise and medication to help restore joint function.
- Any operation of large joints (such as knees, hips, elbows or shoulders), require performing strengthening exercises after the surgery and three to six months later, exercises and physiotherapy for a full recovery. Therapy will also be necessary for the minor joints to improve mobility and strength but usually it is less complicated and shorter.
- It is important not to have unrealistic expectations of what you have to do. You can have a quick recovery but should strive to get the best results possible. You are a crucial factor between success and failure. You will have to follow the doctor’s orders regarding drugs, joint protection, rest, exercise and physical therapy. If the postoperative plan is not achieved, surgery may not be your best choice.
- You have complete mobility and joint use. Surgery may provide a greater range of motion in the joint that may have been limited in the past but the range of movement will depend on how stiff and damaged the joint was before surgery (except for replacements).