NHS waiting lists are getting longer for patients awaiting knee or hip replacement surgery. There are over 500,000 patients currently requiring orthopaedic surgery alone. Waiting times for trauma and orthopaedic surgery (including hip and knee replacements) were already rising before the pandemic. COVID-19 has accelerated this trend. While some hospital authorities have been actively supporting patients waiting for surgery, sadly, this is not the case everywhere, leading to concern and frustration at a lack of information. When people want to be proactive in taking charge of their health, they are disappointed by long waiting times and the associated uncertainty exacerbates emotional distress, particularly if they feel they have been forgotten or not supported.
KEEPING ACTIVE AND WELL
It is important for the patient to stay both physically and mentally healthy while they wait for their surgery as this will help them get the best results from their treatment in the long term. There are many online tools and resources available to help them keep active and to support their mental health. Some specific treatments that might help patients include:
Pain Medication and anti-inflammatories Painkillers and anti-inflammatories can help significantly in terms of allowing people to cope with their daily activities, remain mobile and getting a good night’s sleep. Use of any pain relief medication should be carefully controlled. Steroid injections can help to ease the pain of osteoarthritis but the likelihood of a steroid injection working can be highly variable depending on the damage to the knee or hip. Steroids also mask a patient’s symptoms but without addressing the actual underlying cause of the symptoms, thus fooling the patient into thinking that their knee or hip is better, when it is not resulting in further damage occurring to the joint.
Physiotherapy and Chiropractic Physiotherapy or chiropractic are recommended by NICE as part of the treatment pathway for knee and hip arthritis. Appropriate treatment prior to surgery can improve a patient’s mobility and build strength and fitness levels and increasing the likelihood of a successful outcome from the replacement joint surgery.
Non-impact cardio fitness exercise Exercise programmes can be helpful providing the patient with specific exercises and hands-on supervised guidance. Cardio fitness exercise is something the patient can do for themselves. The best exercises for patients with arthritis are those that are light and gentle on the joints such as walking, cycling and swimming. Performing regular cardio exercise causes the body to produce endorphins helping to raise the patient’s natural pain threshold.
With NHS waiting lists for knee and hip replacement surgery getting longer, there will be a greater need for patients to consider alternative treatment options in order to delay the need for surgery, to help them cope while waiting for surgery and to ensure that they are in the best possible shape when they undergo their operation.
whileyouwait.org Provides additional information, support and resources to help patients while they are waiting for hospital care.
escape-pain.org Provides a group rehabilitation programme for people with chronic joint pain that integrates educational self-management and coping strategies with an individualized exercise regimen.