If you are waiting for joint replacement surgery, the impact of Covid-19 is likely to mean you are waiting for longer and, in the meantime, you may be living with worsening symptoms. We know how frustrating this can be and we understand that this is a very challenging time for patients in that situation.
Pressure on the NHS to care for people with the virus means that nearly all surgery, except for life-saving or limb-saving operations, has been postponed. Private healthcare providers like ours have also put surgical treatment on hold to enable us to support our NHS colleagues at a time of national crisis. And, while the picture is an improving one, it is likely to be many months before routine surgery is resumed.
So, what can you do to manage worsening symptoms and are there things you can do in the meantime to prepare for joint replacement surgery?
Symptoms of severe osteoarthritis
The most common type of joint replacement surgery are hip, knee and shoulder.
However, at Castle Orthopaedics we also offer MCPJ (metacarpal phalangeal joint) replacement for hand arthritis, which involves replacing damaged finger joints with prosthetic implants, and PIPJ (proximal interphalangeal joint) replacement to replace the middle joint in your finger due to pain, damage or restricted movement.
We also offer wrist and total ankle replacements, covering all upper and lower limb joint replacement surgery.
If you are scheduled to receive any type of joint replacement, you are likely to be suffering from moderate to severe osteoarthritis – a degenerative condition that causes the protective cartilage that cushions the end of your bones to wear away. Or you may have rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease which causes your immune system to attack the cells that line your joints.
You may be experiencing pain in the affected joint which tends to be worse during or after movement, stiffness particularly after inactivity, loss of movement and flexibility in the affected joint, swelling or tenderness around the joint, bony spurs which feel like hard lumps around the affected joint, and a grating sensation or popping sound when you use the affected joint.
Managing the symptoms in lockdown
It can be upsetting to be experiencing debilitating symptoms like these and not to know when your surgery is likely to take place due to lockdown restrictions.
During this time, it is important to do whatever you can to manage your symptoms as this will both reduce the pain and relieve some of the frustration you feel. We recommend that you:
- Keep on top of the pain by taking prescribed medication. You might take painkillers, anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids or DMARDs (disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs). Take the medication regularly in line with your doctor’s recommendations.
- Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can contribute to depression, which can be common in people with chronic pain.
- Stress-reduction practices, such as meditation, mindfulness or relaxation, can help to relieve some of the pain of arthritis and may also support you to cope with the pressures of lockdown and the slow return to normal life.
Preparing for surgery
Whether or not you have a date scheduled for joint replacement surgery, there are some steps you can take to prepare yourself and increase your chances of having the best outcomes:
- Cut back on alcohol – drinking too much alcohol can affect the way you respond to anaesthetic. When you are taking medication for joint pain, alcohol can also increase the risk of liver damage.
- Quit smoking – nicotine in tobacco slows healing and can increase the risk of post-surgical infection or deep vein thrombosis. Talk to your doctor if you need support to quit.
- Talk to other specialists – if you have long-term health conditions like diabetes or heart disease you should mention to your specialist that you are scheduled to undergo joint replacement surgery to ensure that you are suitable.
- Follow the advice of your surgical team – as the date for surgery approaches you will be given specific advice and it is important that you follow this. For example, you may be asked to attend for a pre-op appointment or given advice about decreasing your medication dose.