When is the Right Time to Get a Hip or Knee Replacement?

Deciding to bite the bullet and go through with a hip or knee replacement is a big decision. After all, what will recovery be like? Is there anything else that could be done? How can I be certain it's time?

When it comes to the best time for a joint replacement, the idea of “sooner rather than later” is becoming a widely accepted belief. However, there is still no real consensus or hard-and-fast rules within the healthcare community. This means that deciding when you should take action and get a joint replacement is largely up to you.

Read on as we explore how to decide when the time is right for your joint replacement.

Interesting Fact: Research shows that women are likely to wait longer than men to have knee replacement surgery.

Signs You’re Ready for Joint Replacement Surgery

alt news In a recent interview with orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Nima Mehran, he touched on the individual nature of timing and how complicated it can be for a patient to decide when. He explained, that “the right time” isn’t clear cut, but often tells his patients, “we don’t treat an x-ray, we treat you. Some x-rays can look really bad but the patient isn’t in pain and visa versa. When you can’t take it anymore, you’re ready. ”

Here are two key signs you’re ready to take the plunge.

1. Exhausted Non-Surgical Treatments (Oral Medications, Injections and Therapy)

Although total hip and knee replacements offer patients unmatched relief to long-term suffering, the surgery is invasive and shouldn’t be considered until other treatment alternatives have been explored. Before seriously considering a joint replacement, typical patients have tried (in some combination): oral medication, joint injections, physical therapy and/or walking devices.

If you’ve tried conservative treatment and it’s failing to provide adequate relief, seeing an orthopaedic surgeon or setting a procedure date is the appropriate next step.

2. You Just Can’t Take it Anymore

As Dr. Mehran suggested, without suffering too greatly, “when you can’t take it anymore, you’re ready.” This simple statement speaks volumes for someone suffering from severe arthritis and when you’re surgery-ready, it will resonate more than ever.

The top reasons for undergoing a hip or knee replacement are to alleviate pain and increase mobility. If your pain is persistent (even when resting), prevents you from sleeping and you have overall stiffness, surgical intervention could be necessary for your comfort. If you’re no longer physically able to carry on with everyday activities and you’ve ran through countless non-surgical treatments without solution, chances are you’re ready for the procedure.

To put it simply, if pain, stiffness and reduced mobility are hijacking your mood, time with family and friends, or making the activities you love to do impossible, it’s time.

Indicators to Watch Out For

In addition to experiencing pain, stiffness and decreased mobility, there are other indicators that underscore your need to take action.

Physical Indicators to look out for:

  • Decreased motion
  • Lasting stiffness
  • Your hip or knee is severely swollen
  • Your leg is bowing in or out
  • You feel a “grating” of your joint

Other Indicators It’s Time:

  • You’ve been using cane for so long, you’re debating getting a cool one—think hand-carved, populous wood with a decorative brass snakehead.
  • Sitting through an entire movie is intolerable and it’s not even starring Tom Cruise.
  • Your hip or knee can tell it’s going to rain before the meteorologist.
  • You've googled "home elevators" or "stair lifts"
  • You can’t decide what you hate more: walking up stairs or getting out of a chair
  • Taking a bath is as ludicrous as going to a Ludicrous concert

Things to Consider Before Scheduling a Joint Replacement

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1. Taking a Time-Out

Can you afford to take time away from work and your other obligations? Although the average joint replacement patient spends just two days in the hospital, most take six or more weeks to drive again, and 12 or more weeks to start feeling back to normal. If you’re working, it’s likely that you will need to take a few weeks off before you’re back to “business as usual”.

Your health takes priority, but if time is on your side, schedule surgery for a time when your load is lighter.

2. Social Calendar

Consider any major social events such as a wedding or planned trip before settling on a date. Since hip and knee replacement surgery is elective, you have the benefit of working with your orthopaedic surgeon to find a time that suits you best. Planning your surgery around an upcoming event can give you extra incentive to work through your PeerWell PreHab lessons and focus on a speedy recovery.

3. Support

Having the support of family and friends can be make or break when it comes to PreHab and recovery. Patients with a strong support system tend to be more physically and mentally prepared and get back on their feet knees or hips faster. As Dr. Mehran explained, “the support of family and friends is one of the most important factors in determining the overall success and recovery time of joint replacement surgery”.

As you recover, you will need help getting dressed, changing bandages, moving around and so forth. If you’re single or living alone, scheduling the surgery for when a close friend or relative is able to be by your side or when there is vacancy at a rehab centre will make a world of difference.

4. General Health

Are you overweight? Do you smoke? How is your general health? Prior to your hip or knee replacement, it’s important to reduce as much risk as possible and set yourself up for a faster and easier recovery. For instance, some orthopaedic surgeons won’t operate on smokers because the risk of complication is too great. Dr. Michael F. Schafer, chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Northwestern University, said, “In patients who are not absolutely incapacitated by their problem, I will tell them that I won't do their surgery until they stop smoking."

If you’ve got some health obstacles to overcome, take the necessary steps to lessen your overall risk. Once your date is set, remember to start PreHab in order to really commit to optimal health. Your future self will thank you.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Is your joint pain persistent and sometimes uncontrollable?
  • Is the immobility in your hip or knee getting in the way of everyday life?
  • Have you tried multiple different treatments for your hip and knee?
  • Are the non-surgical treatments no longer very effective? Can you afford to take time away from work and other obligations?
  • Do you know one or more person who can support you in recovery? Would you consider yourself in decent overall health?

If you found this article, read through it, and answered “yes” to most or all of the above questions, it’s time to talk to your doctor or orthopaedic surgeon about going ahead with a total joint replacement surgery.


Sign-up for PeerWell’s PreHab program and optimize your health, reduce your risk, and increase the benefit of your joint replacement today. PreHab your way to a better life.

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Hi, I'm Grace. I cover all topics for your hip & knee replacement needs. You may remember me from such titles as: "Diabetes & Joint Replacement 101" & "Sex After a Joint Replacement". Read on, mate.

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