Arthritis, years of use wear joints away

Part 1

Joints can be damaged by arthritis and other diseases, injuries, or other causes.

Arthritis or simply years of use may cause the joint to wear away. This can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling. When damage to a joint becomes too severe, Physiotherapy and exercises may no longer be enough to maintain the function of the joint. When this happens, the only option may be to replace the joint.

Joint replacement surgery involves surgery to replace the ends of the bones in a damaged joint. This surgery creates new joint surfaces and is most often done to decrease pain and increase mobility. Hips and knees are the most common joints to be replaced. Shoulders, ankles, elbow and fingers can also be replaced.

The materials used in a total joint replacement are designed to enable the joint to move in the same way as the normal joint. The artificial components are generally composed of a metal piece that fits closely into a matching sturdy plastic element. The metals are varied and include stainless steel, or alloys of cobalt, chrome, and titanium. The plastic material is a polyethylene that is extremely durable and wear-resistant. Also, a bone cement is often used to anchor the bone to the new, artificial component. Cementless joint replacements have also been developed. In these replacements, the prosthesis and the bone are made to fit together directly.

Recovery from joint surgery is different for each person and can depend on factors such as health, fitness and motivation levels and the complexity of the joint surgery. There are, however, some guidelines for recovery from joint replacement. In the first few days just getting out of bed is usually a challenge, but generally, people are able to go home from the hospital after just a few days. After going home from the hospital, for the first three to four weeks after knee or hip replacement, walking with crutches or a walker is usually necessary. For a couple of weeks after that a cane may be needed, but around eight weeks, most people can walk unaided. After about 12 weeks, most people are back to their normal activities and the pain experienced before the knee replacement has usually disappeared by this time. It usually takes from 6-12 months for a total joint replacement to heal completely. This time frame is dependent on the exercises and rehabilitation program being followed and on the joint not being damaged by trying to pursue some activities too soon.

If you, or someone you know is waiting for joint replacement surgery, make sure you do your research. First, get the information that you need before the surgery to ensure you are comfortable with the process. Second, get the help that you need after surgery to make sure that your joint replacement works the way that it is supposed to and lasts as long as it should.


Ben Chatterson is a physiotherapist at Rehabilitation in Motion which has four Island locations including two in Campbell River: Willow Point, 923-3773; Quinsam (across from SaveOn Foods), 286-9670; Comox Valley, 334-9670; Port Alberni; 723-9675. Ben Chatterson works at the Comox Valley Clinic. Visit

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