By dr Andrew Wassef,
More than 32.5 million US adults have osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease most common in older adults. More than 50% of adults older than 65 are affected by osteoarthritis – which is when the tissue in the joint breaks down over time. Simply put, it’s years of “wear and tear” on your joints catching up to you.
Osteoarthritis most commonly affects the hands, lower back, neck and weight-bearing joints, such as hips and knees. Essentially, these are the joints you use for daily activities such as walking, standing, driving and more.
The risk of developing osteoarthritis in joints like the knee is about 46% and developing osteoarthritis in the hip is 25%, according to the American College of Rheumatology.
What happens is that the joint cartilage breaks down because of stress or changes within the body, causing the bone underneath to fail.
Some of the ways that osteoarthritis can be triggered are:
- Age: The older you become, the higher the chances of developing osteoarthritis.
- Being overweight or obese: This can put stress on your joints. The extra weight puts pressure specifically on weight-bearing joints such as hips and knees.
- History of injury or overuse: Repetitive stress on a joint can damage it and increase the risk of osteoarthritis.
- Family history of osteoarthritis: Those who have a family member with osteoarthritis are also more likely to develop it.
- Sex: Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than men, especially after they turn 50.
Osteoarthritis brings with it multiple symptoms.
People with osteoarthritis usually experience:
- Pain when actively moving or afterwards.
- Stiffness, which might be most noticeable when waking up or after being inactive.
- Tenderness when applying light pressure to or near the joint.
- Loss of full motion in the joint.
- A grating sensation might happen using the joint, which may feel like the bones are grating against each other. There might be audible popping or crackling as well.
- Bone spurs, which are extra bits of bone that could feel like hard lumps, could form around the affected joint.
- Swelling might be caused by soft tissue inflammation around the joint.
But if your joint pain, stiffness or any of those other symptoms you’re experiencing doesn’t seem to go away, it may be time to set up an appointment with your doctor.
You shouldn’t let joint pain stop you from living your life, especially as you age. Your doctor can help create a treatment plan, giving you the ability to go back to living your life – to dancing, traveling and more – free of joint pain.
A treatment plan for osteoarthritis could include physical therapy, weight loss, medication, over-the-counter pain relievers, supportive devices such as crutches or canes, or surgery.
If you are considering surgery, it’s important to have an open conversation with your doctor.
There is a popular belief that the older you become, the less likely you are to be approved for surgery because of health complications. But rest assured, age alone is rarely a reason for someone to not have surgery, including joint replacement.
The biggest concern that your doctor has for you, if considering surgery, is your overall health – not your age. Luckily, because of advancements in technology, the precision of joint replacement has improved immensely and are lasting longer. Making joint replacement surgery for seniors even more beneficial and the recovery time quicker.
One of the tools we use that allows for quicker recovery time is Mako SmartRobotics, which is a robotic-assisted arm that helps with precision in placement of the joint, which benefits seniors in allowing them to be able to walk the same day as their surgery . I’ve even had patients come back to fix their other knee or hip, because the one with the replacement is pain free and lasting them for years.
Some of the additional benefits of using the Mako SmartRobotics are:
- Less tissue damage.
- Reduced blood loss.
- Reduced post-op pain (varying by patient).
- Faster rehabilitation and recovery.
- Improved range of motion in the knee.
Ultimately, the decision to have joint replacement surgery should be cooperative among you, your family, your doctor and your surgeon. But first, be sure to consult with your doctor to ensure your specific health needs and questions are being answered.
Andrew J. Wassef serves as the medical director of the MemorialCare Joint Replacement Center at Long Beach Medical Center. He specializes in joint replacement and the treatment of arthritic conditions affecting the hip, knee and shoulder, and is a leader in Mako Robotic Arm Assisted Surgery.