Nearly 200,000 people in the United States undergo total joint replacement surgery each year. The most common reasons for this surgery include severe rheumatoid arthritis, degenerative arthritis and fractures resulting from osteoporosis or other skeletal conditions. The most commonly replaced joints are found in the hips, however shoulder and TMJ (jaw) replacements occur often as well. Advances in surgical technology have ensured that many joint replacement patients will be able to return to normal function in a relatively short period of time.
Total joint replacement is a major surgery that involves replacing sizable portions of bone with new, synthetic parts. For example, in a total hip replacement the top section of the femur is removed and replaced with a small ball and stem, which is made of metallic components. The pelvic section of the joint is then switched with a low-friction, plastic socket. The new components replicate the movements of the original hip joint while alleviating the pain caused by the aging and deteriorating joint.
Following surgery, patients may be susceptible to infection as well as to the loosening of the new prosthetic devices inside their bodies. It is vital for patients to work with a physical therapist to strengthen the supporting muscles around the new joint. Physical therapists can guide people through a variety of rehabilitation techniques including aquatic therapy, which can help people gradually resume full weight bearing through the new joint.
People can return to many normal activities soon after undergoing total joint replacement surgery. Avid golfers will be able to get back on the course quickly if they rehab effectively. However, it is important to take some precautions to avoid complications from the surgery. Golfers should try playing in shoes without spikes to reduce the torque and rotational stress applied to the knees and hips during a golf swing. It is also wise not to play on rainy days as slips and falls can cause damage to the new joints. While total joint replacement is a major surgery, if people rehab diligently with their physical therapists they can get back to their normal lives quickly.