Losing your mobility or dealing with constant pain can be life-altering and mentally taxing. But there’s good news: You don’t have to live that way.
Thanks to total joint replacement surgery, patients can find relief from pain caused by joint damage and arthritis. In fact, 2.5 million people had total hip replacement surgery and 4.7 million had total knee replacement surgery by 2010.
That said, we know undergoing major surgery can be intimidating, so we spoke with former total joint replacement patient, Steve, to learn more.
Prior to experiencing constant hip pain that began interfering with his daily life, Steve was very active and adventurous, with a passion for waterskiing.
But all of that changed about three years ago.
Steve began having back pain which significantly limited his mobility, and prevented him from continuing his active lifestyle. In June 2019, he underwent back surgery to relieve the pain. Unfortunately, his limitations proved to be far from over.
As part of his back-surgery recovery plan, Steve needed to complete a fair amount of walking. Before long, he started to notice increasing pain in his hips.
“A month after my back surgery, I accidentally disturbed a beehive and tried to avoid getting stung by jumping off of a three-foot high wood pile,” said Steve. “I experienced some pain when I landed on the ground, but didn’t realize how bad it was until I started running. I couldn’t make it further than about 30 steps. By that point, the bees caught up with me, and I was stung about 20 times.”
The deteriorating joint pain Steve experienced is all too common. Patients suffering from arthritis and other damage to their joints often reach a breaking point which necessitates total joint replacement surgery, a procedure ThedaCare Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. David Liebelt is well versed in.
“When dealing with joint pain, immobility, and other injuries, patients need this procedure to improve their quality of life,” said Dr. Liebelt. “There are alternative and less invasive treatments available, such as joint injections, weight loss, physical therapy, modifying activities, use of assistive devices, bracing, and oral and topical medications. But for some patients, these options aren’t enough to provide long-term relief.”
The majority of total joint replacements are for knees and hips, but some surgeons also perform this life-changing operation on shoulders, ankles, and other joints. The ultimate goal is to get patients back into their daily routines and activities, with increased function and mobility.
Steve didn’t know much about hip replacement surgery prior to his consultation with Dr. Liebelt, but found himself to be relatively calm about taking the leap.
“YouTube videos helped me get a feel for the surgery,” said Steve. “I also knew acquaintances who had joint replacement surgery, so I didn’t think it was a big deal.”
According to Dr. Liebelt, Steve was right not to be concerned.
“Hip and knee replacements tend to recover quickly but it depends on the technique used and the patient’s condition prior to surgery,” he said.
After Steve underwent surgeries to have both of his hips replaced earlier this year, Dr. Liebelt told him he could expect to be up and out of the hospital the same day or the day following surgery, with a full return to normal routine within 12 weeks.
But Steve surprised everyone with an impressively fast recovery.
“After I woke up in recovery, I was up and walking almost immediately. There wasn’t a lot of pain, just a tolerable soreness in my thighs,” said Steve. “I didn’t even need pain medication by the third day after surgery.”
A New Lease on Life
Steve credits his great recovery experience to Dr. Liebelt’s technique and has since been able to return to waterskiing, slalom skiing, golfing, bowling, and much more.
“Total joint replacement surgery is intended to bring patients who are struggling to do normal day-to-day activities back to what they enjoy and love,” said Dr. Liebelt. “And that’s exactly what Steve has been able to do.”
Dr. Liebelt recommends total joint replacement surgery for any patient suffering from hip or knee pain who has experienced multiple failed non-operative treatment options. Following surgery, patients usually report continued improvement in their mobility for at least up to two years, with about 75% of hip replacements lasting between 15 and 20 years. A little over half have even experienced relief for 25 years or longer.
Steve is a walking testament for the potential to have a normal, enjoyable and pain-free life after surgery. Having returned to a fully functional life since surgery, he anticipates the pain will be all but a distant memory once he reaches the one-year anniversary of his hip replacement.
As for others battling hip pain – especially golfers – Steve recommends looking into hip replacement surgery as soon as possible.
“Why wait?” he said. “The sooner you get it done, the sooner you’ll feel like yourself again.”