Living with chronic pain; is joint replacement worth it?

April 07, 2017 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

Photo credit: Harper's Bazaar 

Lady Gaga makes headlines practically every day. This spring, however, she’s in the news for reasons other than her latest performance or eye-catching wardrobe.

She’s on the cover of Arthritis Magazine, featured in an interview about her struggles with a hip injury and subsequent chronic pain.

In February 2013, the mega star had surgery to repair a broken hip and torn labrum – the cartilage in the hip joint that cushions the rim of the hip joint socket. At that time, Lady Gaga announced she had synovitis, a joint condition that can cause pain and swelling and affect range of motion.

“The labrum plays an important role in the function of the hip joint,” says Andrew Kim, MD, orthopedic surgeon with DuPage Medical Group and Edward Medical Director of Total Joint Replacement.

“If you tear the labrum, you will have pain,” Dr. Kim says. “And an untreated labral tear can lead to arthritis."

Arthritis and joint pain are more common in older people, though young people can develop arthritis and joint pain from sports injuries and overuse of their joints.

It’s not easy to live with pain whenever you move. And you shouldn’t just live with it, Dr. Kim says.

The first step toward feeling better is managing the symptoms. Avoid repetitive use activities that are hard on your affected joints. Work on building your muscle strength, maintain a healthy weight and take anti-inflammatory medication, Dr. Kim says.

Lady Gaga heeded that same advice, posting on Instagram about the ways she manages her symptoms.

Lady Gaga IG

In one post, she wrote that she cranks up the heat in an infrared sauna, then follows that with a cold bath or ice packs on affected joints.

Arthritis is progressive. Eventually, symptom management efforts won’t work as well as they used to. Joint replacement is a last resort when it comes to arthritis treatment, Dr. Kim says.

Alan Jirik, 62, of Downers Grove, had osteoarthritis so severe that he couldn’t even bend down to pick something up off the ground.

“The pain was like you were stuck with a dagger,” Jirik says. “It’s sharp, instantaneous, searing and sudden.”

Dr. Kim first tried to manage Jirik’s symptoms with physical therapy, cortisone shots and medication. When that didn’t work, Dr. Kim performed an anterior left total hip replacement. Four weeks after surgery, Jirik went back to work.

“I’m back at the gym working out, able to play golf again and stairs don’t bother me,” says Jirik. “Before the surgery, I felt like a 90-year-old man, but was 60. If someone asked me how old I feel now, I’d say late 40s, early 50s. I feel great.”

Symptom management and joint replacement are individual decisions best made by you and your doctor. The bottom line: you don’t have to suffer.

Learn more about treatment options for arthritic knees and hips. Join Andrew Kim, MD on Wednesday, May 10 at Edward-Elmhurst Medical Center in Yorkville as he speaks about chronic joint pain and the treatment options that are available to help with pain and improve mobility. Get more information and register here.

You have options to feel like yourself again. Learn more about the Edward-Elmhurst Health Orthopedic Center.

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