by Annette Pinder

Years ago, we didn’t hear much about people getting their knees or hips replaced to free them from excruciating pain and limited mobility. But hip surgeries have been around for at least 300 years, and the first knee replacement surgery was performed in 1968. Today, one million hip or knee replacements are performed annually in the United States, and 7 million Americans currently live with a hip or knee replacement. The impact of these surgeries is extraordinary, because it allows people to be mobile, and regain their lives despite having advanced arthritis.

According to Joseph P. Falcone, MD, DO of General Physician, PC, the average age of patients undergoing joint replacement surgery is less than 65. But, how do you know when it’s time to see a doctor for the pain you are experiencing? And what causes all that pain?

Dr. Falcone explains that as we age, we subject our bodies to years of wear and tear on our joints, leading to inflammation and degeneration of the joints, resulting in osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of our bones wears down over time. Osteoarthritis can damage any joint, but most often affects joints in the hands, knees, hips and spine. While the most common cause of arthritis is aging, it can also be genetic.

Secondary osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage is damaged by another disease or medical condition. These include obesity which causes stress on joints; congenital abnormalities; body mechanics, such as hypermobility; repetitive motion; gout; rheumatoid arthritis; diabetes and other hormone disorders; and menopause.

Dr. Falcone encourages patients to explore conservative treatment options with their providers prior to scheduling surgery. These include weight loss, exercise, anti-inflammatory drugs, steroid injections, chiropractic care, braces, and physical and occupational therapy. After these conservative options have been exhausted, it is time to talk to a surgeon.

The good news is that we’ve come a very long way from 300 years ago, or even 1968. Today, total hip arthroplasty is one of the most successful orthopedic interventions of its generation. Minimally invasive techniques result in shorter hospital stays, and patients being able to resume their recreational activities after 12 weeks. Total knee replacement, also called knee arthroplasty, replaces the weight-bearing surfaces of the knee joint to relieve pain and disability. Here, too, many patients can resume recreational activities after about 12 weeks. Patients are asleep during both of these surgeries and physical rehabilitation is required. It can take up to 6 months to fully recover from joint replacement surgery. The success rate for hip replacement is high, with more than 95% of patients experiencing pain relief, and over 90% of replacement knees are still functioning after 15 years.

Watch an interesting television show featuring Dr. Joseph P. Falcone and patients who have undergone these surgeries on Wednesday, June 9 at 8 pm or Saturday, June 12 at noon on WBBZ-TV Channel 5 (Fios, Spectrum, and DISH) and Channel 67 (DirecTV). To make an appointment to see Dr. Falcone, call 716-632-1212 and visit