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(Credit: St. Mary)

Lifestyle changes and medication can help you put off joint replacement surgery for months or years. Dr. Arjun Saxena, an orthopedic surgeon at St. Mary Medical Center says there are many things you can do to relieve the pain. Losing weight and exercising to strengthen the joint may be all you need. You can also try anti-inflammatory medications, injections and physical therapy.  He says if these help, you can put off surgery for as long as possible.

When you find that your quality of life is suffering because of the pain, Dr. Saxena says that’s when it’s time to change your approach. If you can no longer do the things you enjoy in life, such as take a walk with your family, it may be time for surgery. He says when you reach that point, you can be seen by one of his co-workers the next business day. That way you can get back to the activities you enjoy, as soon as possible.

Once the decision for surgery is made, you still have work to do. His patients are often given pre-surgical exercise programs to do to keep the joint moving and as strong as possible. Education is also an important part of the process and people are sent to class to learn what to expect before, during and after surgery. He says when patients understand the process, their fears can be addressed and the surgical experience will go much smoother.