(BPT) - If you’re suffering from joint pain and considering a joint replacement, you’re not alone. Chronic, debilitating pain that requires joint replacement affects nearly one in four adults in the United States, according to the U.S. Bone and Joint Initiative. But unfortunately, many people wait years to move forward with surgery, enduring significant pain and negatively impacting their lives.
This delay has worsened in the current climate of stress and fear of infection during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, 48% of people reported they postponed elective joint replacement surgery due to fears and concerns stemming from COVID-19, according to a recent U.S. survey of 1,200 people comprised of joint replacement patients, candidates and their caregivers, conducted by Wakefield Research and commissioned by a leading medical device company Zimmer Biomet. Informed by the results of this survey, Zimmer Biomet recently launched Don’t Let Pain Gain on You, an educational resource aimed at informing and empowering those living with joint pain to make informed decisions about joint replacement surgery in partnership with their healthcare professional.
Although joint replacement is typically considered an elective surgery, it is an important tool in restoring people’s mobility and helping to enhance their quality of life. If you are considering joint replacement surgery and feeling hesitant during the COVID-19 pandemic, here are five things to consider:
1. Quality of life
Relief from debilitating pain is the number one benefit of joint replacement surgery. “Unfortunately, I have many patients who are suffering greatly from joint pain but have canceled or delayed their planned joint replacement procedures due to concerns stemming from COVID-19,” says Dr. Mark Klaassen,* orthopedic surgeon. “While this concern is understandable, it becomes a quality-of-life issue. I do my best to encourage people to proceed as soon as they feel comfortable, so that they can achieve relief from chronic, debilitating joint pain and move forward with their life.”
Discussing all potential benefits and risks with your own doctor to determine the right time for you is important. Expectations and achievable level of pain-relief and mobility can vary depending on your specific pre-operative condition and activity level.
2. Talk to your healthcare professional about an outpatient procedure and digital health platforms
Ask your surgeon about your potential to have an outpatient surgical procedure so that you may be able to be discharged on the same day of surgery and recover at home instead of spending additional time in the hospital – which may be particularly appealing during the pandemic. Additionally, you can ask your healthcare professional about technological innovations in joint replacement surgery such as robotics and digital health platforms that are available in some locations, for appropriate patients. One such option is mymobility® with Apple Watch®** from Zimmer Biomet, a first-of-its-kind remote care management system that uses iPhone® and Apple Watch to facilitate a new level of connection between patients and their surgical care teams that is also intended to help minimize the need for unnecessary physical touchpoints.
3. Understand the safety protocols in place to help minimize exposure to COVID-19
If you are concerned about your safety at this time, it is important to realize that there are state mandated protocols and guidance in place to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure. According to Dr. Klaassen, “Hospitals and surgery centers across the country are typically utilizing extremely stringent policies and procedures to help keep people safe. If safety concerns are holding you back, I urge you to discuss further with your healthcare professional as I personally don’t see this as a reason to further delay a necessary joint replacement procedure.”
Becky D., a mother and grandmother from Warsaw, Ind., and a patient of Dr. Klaassen’s, recently underwent two separate joint replacement procedures, in the middle of COVID-19—the first, in March 2020, was a total knee replacement and the second, in June 2020, was a partial knee replacement.
Becky reflects on her experience after her two knee replacement surgeries during COVID-19. “Overall, I found it to be a positive experience and I am glad I moved forward with it. I had some pain for a few weeks after surgery, and worked very hard with my rehabilitation exercises.” said Becky. “Two months after surgery, I am so relieved not to have that debilitating pain I had before surgery, and I am able to be more active again, going to my grandkids’ sporting events and ready to decorate for the holidays."
4. Consider your caregivers
For many people suffering from severe joint pain, family members and caregivers are often a critical part of the process, so don’t forget to consider the impact that continuing to delay your joint replacement surgery could have on them. Data shows that caregivers of people with joint pain can face a decrease in their quality of life and an increase in stress as they bear added responsibilities or household duties. In fact, according to Zimmer Biomet’s survey, 56% of caregivers wished their loved one would move forward with surgery more quickly even during the pandemic in order to relieve their physical pain and the negative impact on quality of life. While caregiver responsibilities may increase during your recovery, completing your surgery might not only help you get back on your feet but also help relieve your caregivers of extra burdens.
5. Delaying joint replacement surgery can lead to additional pain
Zimmer Biomet’s survey also found that those who have postponed their elective joint replacement surgery due to COVID-19 related concerns report that their daily lives have been impacted, citing increases in pain (71%), mobility changes (58%), and worsening sleep (36%). Talk to your surgeon about what’s right for you. Whether you’ve put off your joint replacement surgery or haven’t yet scheduled, now may be the time to take action to resolve your joint pain, so you can get back to enjoying your daily life.
If you have chronic, debilitating joint pain, consider taking action to address it. For more information, visit DontLetPainGain.com.
Results are not necessarily typical, indicative, or representative of all recipient patients. Results will vary due to health, weight, activity and other variables. Not all patients are candidates for this product and/or procedure. Zimmer Biomet is a medical device manufacturer and does not practice medicine; all questions regarding your condition and treatment must be directed to your surgeon. Only a medical professional can determine the treatment appropriate for your specific condition. Appropriate post-operative activities will differ from patient to patient. Talk to your surgeon about whether joint replacement is right for you and the risks of the procedure, including the risks of infection, implant wear, loosening, breakage or failure, any of which can require additional surgery. For additional information or to find a surgeon near you, visit www.zimmerbiomet.com.
* Dr. Klaassen is a paid consultant of Zimmer Biomet
** iPhone and Apple Watch are trademarks of Apple, Inc. mymobility can only be used if prescribed by a surgeon for patients with a compatible smartphone deemed appropriate for remote care.
 United States Bone and Joint Initiative. The Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the United States. Available at: https://www.boneandjointburden.org/2014-report/ib2/chronic-joint-pain.
 Wakefield. Zimmer Biomet Joint Replacement Patient and Caregiver U.S. Perception Survey. September 2020.
 American College of Surgeons. COVID-19: Executive Orders by State on Dental, Medical, and Surgical Procedures. Available at: https://www.facs.org/covid-19/legislative-regulatory/executive-orders.
 Longo UG, Matarese M, Arcangeli V, et al. Family Caregiver Strain and Challenges When Caring for Orthopedic Patients: A Systematic Review. J Clin Med. 2020;9(5):1497. Published 2020 May 16. doi:10.3390/jcm9051497