One of the most common chronic conditions many of us face in our later years is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by inflammation in aging joints, and injury and obesity can also play a role. Eventually, this condition will cause cartilage tissue to break down and cause pain, swelling or deformity. Osteoarthritis leads to pain in your hips, knees, shoulder or spine that can be so severe it interrupts your daily life.
Physical therapy is often an option to help relieve some of the pain associated with osteoarthritis. However, when the condition is severe enough, many seniors choose to have elective orthopedic surgeries to allow them to get back to their active lifestyle.
Choosing to Have Geriatric Orthopedic Surgery
It’s estimated that by the year 2030, almost 3.4 million people in the United States will undergo knee replacement surgery, and around half a million people will get hip replacements. Although some seniors may be slightly apprehensive about choosing to have these types of orthopedic surgeries, studies show that in as little as a year after surgery, seniors can see significant improvements in in their osteoarthritis symptoms and enjoy a higher quality of life.
Some of the most common elective surgeries for seniors include:
Hip Replacement Surgery: This procedure involves the removal of the painful hip joint with arthritis and replacing it with an artificial joint made from plastic and metal components. Hip replacements were first performed in the early 1970s, and today, seniors can expect that their hip replacement will last at least 20 years.
Knee Replacement Surgery: Stiff, painful knees from osteoarthritis or a previous injury can make doing the simplest tasks extremely difficult, like going up a flight of stairs or even simply navigating through the grocery store. This type of geriatric orthopedic surgery also provides a dramatic improvement in mobility, even just one month post-surgery.
Shoulder Replacement Surgery: Shoulder disorders and pain affects around 20% of the elderly and is caused by conditions like rotator cuff tendinitis, rotator cuff tears and, of course, osteoarthritis. Like hip replacement or knee replacement surgery, total shoulder replacement surgery involves removing the damaged joint and replacing it with artificial parts. The goal is to not only alleviate pain, but also to improve range of motion and strength.
Spinal Surgery: Lower back pain due to osteoarthritis affects one out of ten people. Strenuous activities, overuse or degenerative vertebrae can also cause chronic lower back pain. The most common type of back surgery is called Spinal Fusion, in which the surgeon joins vertebrae together to restrict motion between the bones to limit the stretching of the nerves.
These types of elective orthopedic surgeries can drastically improve seniors’ daily lives. However, it’s important to note that it’s possible to avoid them altogether by leading a healthy lifestyle and simply being more careful in regards to lifting heavy objects. Joining a senior rehabilitation program that includes physical therapy can also help alleviate the chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis.