Keep Your Hips and Knees Happy

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Need Replacement Parts?

If you're still in serious pain after seeing your doctor and a physical therapist and after trying exercises, anti-inflammatory medications, and injections, it may be time to think about surgery. While prevention is everyone's first choice, once you reach a certain point, a joint replacement may be your only option, says Mary I. O'Connor, MD, chair of the department of orthopedic surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. The problem? It's not always clear when bad is bad enough. Plus surgery always has risks. Before you decide:

Get Multiple Opinions

Don't be shy about getting advice from two or three doctors. Rate your pain. Is it bad enough to outweigh the risks? Can you put off surgery for another year or two, or will that make your recovery harder? The typical knee or hip replacement lasts up to 20 years, so if you're under 55 ask your doctor what will happen if you need surgery yet again.

Keep Your Expectations Realistic

Your new joint isn't going to be the same as the natural one you had when you were a teenager. You will need time to recover and even after you heal you may still hurt from time to time. Women especially are at a greater risk for continued pain after a replacement, Dr. O'Connor says.

Research, Research, Research

You've probably heard the scary news about the recall of some all-metal hip implants. Besides failing years before they're supposed to, the wear of metal parts rubbing against one another may cause serious damage to tissues surrounding the hip. Best advice? Ask the doctor about the make, model, and manufacturer of the implant you will be getting and do your own research. Ask how many similar procedures the surgeon has under his belt and how many replacements the hospital does each year. To learn more about exactly what happens during surgery, read about the pros and cons of different methods at

Arthritis Crash Course

What is it? Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that happens when the cartilage in your joints breaks down, which leads to joint inflammation and stiffness -- even disability. It's the most common type of arthritis, often caused by injuries, overuse, and regular old wear and tear.

Who gets it? Nearly 19 percent of women 45 and over have osteoarthritis of the knee and around 4 percent of women over 55 have it in their hips. It takes years to develop, but you can slow it down and treat the symptoms, says Dr. O'Connor.

How do you fix it? Losing weight, staying active, and strengthening the muscles around the arthritic joint can help you feel better and keep the disease from progressing. And, most important, those same things, if started early, can prevent arthritis from occurring in the first place.



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