By the time you reach the tender age of 40 or 50, you know you’re just hitting your stride. But what if your arthritis got a serious head start? If you’re struggling with pain or stiffness, you’re not too young to get your knee or hip replaced.
“This age group typically has the desire and stamina to enjoy a recreational and athletic lifestyle. It would be a shame to cut short your favorite activities,” says Mark Shekhman, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at The Bone & Joint Institute at Hartford Hospital.
Is it risky to get a joint replacement in your 40s or 50s?
If you’re in generally good health, no. (Your doctor will do a full assessment to be sure.)
“Many younger patients are opting to go ahead with joint replacement instead of waiting until they’re older. The proportion of 45- to 65-year-olds getting joint replacement is rapidly climbing,” says Dr. Shekhman. “With advances in technology and materials, joint replacements are stronger and last longer than ever before.”
In fact, your younger age will be an advantage: You’ll probably have fewer medical concerns, and a quicker recovery.
“Lots of outpatient surgical centers now offer same-day surgeries,” says Dr. Shekhman. “You can have your joint replaced, avoid the hospital altogether, and be home for lunch the same day.”
Will an artificial joint limit my activities?
Thanks to modern materials, no. Many, if not all, of your favorite spots and fitness activities will still be on the table — and you’ll be able to enjoy them without pain.
“With the resilience of modern joint replacements, patients can continue low-impact activities such as biking, hiking and travel, and even skiing and hockey,” says Dr. Shekhman.
How young is too young to get my knee or hip replaced?
If you’re in your 30s or younger, you’re probably not a candidate.
Why? Ideally, you only want to have one joint replacement in your lifetime, because repeat surgeries tend to be riskier. “It’s better to only go through this once,” says Dr. Shekhman.
So you want to make sure your new artificial joint will last as long as you do. For now, a replacement in your 30s is pushing it. It’s usually better to use non-surgical methods to get you through to your 40s or 50s.
What is the surgery and recovery experience like for younger patients?
One of Dr. Shekhman’s patients was 43 years old, and already experiencing debilitating pain from arthritis. After trying all the non-surgical options, he decided to have a hip replacement.
A few months later, his quality of life had transformed.
“He can walk without a limp. He’s coaching his kids’ soccer team again,” reports Dr. Shekhman. “He’s less stressed, less fatigued from the pain, and more motivated to get active again.”
In other words, a hip or knee replacement can mean the difference between supposedly being in the prime of your life — and actually feeling like it.