Joint replacement surgery myths: What’s the truth?


In this article:

  • We debunk common myths about joint replacement surgery. Are you putting off surgery because you believe some of them?
  • Providence is one of the top systems in the country for joint replacement and provides helpful education and support to prepare for surgery.
  • In 2021, Providence surgeons performed more than 20,000 joint replacement surgeries.

You probably know someone who has undergone joint replacement surgery. You may have even cared for a family member or friend who is recovering from such a surgery. But have you considered that joint replacement might be a good option for you? If it hurts for you to move and you find yourself unable to participate in activities you once enjoyed, it may be time to talk to your doctor about surgery.

It can be scary to consider having surgery — especially if the myths you’ve heard are keeping you from seeking help for painful joint problems. Below, we dispel some of the most common myths about joint replacement surgery.

Myth No. 1: Joint replacement should be a last-resort treatment option.

It’s true that people who are experiencing joint pain should not immediately assume they need surgery. The first step usually is to talk to your primary care physician and learn if you can manage your pain in other ways. Most commonly, doctors prescribe medications and occupational or physical therapy to help increase range of motion, increase strength and find other ways to accomplish daily tasks. In some cases, injections — such as cortisone — can provide a great deal of pain relief.

But joint replacement is far from a last-resort treatment. Nobody should have to live in pain, and the longer you go without proper treatment, the more difficult it will be to recover when you do have the joint replacement. “Once you are at the point where other treatments are not helping the pain, you don’t want to delay surgery,” said Katie Sypher, director of the Providence Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Institute.

Myth No. 2: Your artificial joint won’t feel as natural as your biological joint.

An artificial joint is typically composed of metal and some plastic or ceramic. It’s natural to be concerned that it won’t feel quite right to have these foreign substances in your body. But if you’re a candidate for joint replacement, you won’t feel natural without an artificial joint. You are likely in a lot of pain, and that pain won’t go away until you undergo surgery.

One of the ways physicians measure how natural an artificial joint feels is with the Forgotten Joint Score (FJS). The FJS assigns a number value to how easy it is for a patient to forget they have an artificial joint. The higher the score, the more they forget about the joint. Providence providers have seen consistently high Forgotten Joint Scores with their patients; some patients have even returned to high-impact sports such as downhill skiing after recovering from their joint replacement.

Myth No. 3: You will have a long hospital stay after your joint replacement.

Years ago, your stay in the hospital after a joint replacement surgery could be as long as a week. However, surgical technologies have improved drastically, and now, many patients do most of their recovering at home. In fact, nearly 90% of Providence patients undergo joint replacement as an outpatient procedure, which means they don’t have to stay overnight at all. “Patients actually recover more easily at home,” said Michael Griffin, associate vice president of the Providence Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Institute. “It is better for their mental health, and they are more motivated to practice moving around.”

Myth No. 4: The joint will wear out soon after your surgery, and you will need another joint replacement.

This is another example of how far joint replacement technology has advanced. While people who had the surgery many years ago may eventually need another joint replacement, most people now do not have to undergo a revision surgery. “Most surgeons say joint expectancy with an artificial joint is 20 years or longer,” said Griffin. “Many people are between 65 and 75 years old when they have their joint replacement. When you are that age, 20 years is a long time. Additionally, as you become older, your activity level decreases, which means you are less likely to be putting more wear and tear on your joint.”

A big part of making sure your joint replacement surgery goes well is becoming healthy before the surgery. That includes:

  • Stopping smoking
  • Eating healthy foods
  • Losing weight if you have a high body mass index (BMI)
  • Controlling any chronic diseases, such as diabetes or high blood pressure

Because it can be a daunting task to prepare your body for surgery, Providence gives you plenty of support. We offer online total joint replacement education that can help you know exactly what to expect, and to do in the weeks and months leading up to surgery. You can also choose to participate in Twistle, a digital assistant that sends reminders and updates to help you prepare. Both the online classes and Twistle help you get in the best shape possible so you can safely undergo a life-changing joint replacement surgery.

A national leader in joint replacement

The Providence Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Clinic completes an extremely high number of joint replacement surgeries each year. In 2019, surgeons across the system performed more than 30,000; nationwide, one out of every 41 joint replacement procedures was performed by a Providence surgeon. In the midst of COVID-19 restrictions in 2021, Providence surgeons still completed more than 20,000. Beyond the numbers, our outcomes show that our skilled physicians are committed to our patients’ wellbeing. When you undergo joint replacement at Providence, you can be confident that you’re in good hands.

Find a doctor

If you are looking for joint or orthopedic care, the Providence Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Institute has the specialists who can help you. Or you can search for a provider who’s right for you in our provider directory.

Related resources

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

About the Author

We know bones and skeletal frameworks like the back of our hand! The Providence Orthopedics Team is dedicated to providing you clinical advice and insights to help you take care of your bones and joints. Whether it's sports and exercise, diet and nutrition or post-operation topics, we are here to help you understand how to take care of your precious bones.

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