For Christopher (Chris) Cline, being sidelined with back and leg pain just wasn’t an option that fit his busy lifestyle. A father of 16-year-old twins and a 9-year-old, Chris enjoys coaching his kids’ soccer, softball, and baseball teams. To him, it’s precious time with them that is non-negotiable.
Five years ago, Chris started having lower back pain and discomfort in the back of his legs. With a busy career, Chris at times was uncomfortable even just sitting a desk or driving. Chalking it up to a bad back, he saw a chiropractor for a while. His disappointment and frustration grew during a family vacation to Hilton Head, South Carolina last year.
“The kids were begging me to play golf but my back just couldn’t take it. Finally, the pain got so bad I couldn’t bend over to put my own socks on. That’s when I said enough — I’m 58 years old and shouldn’t need help getting dressed!”
After X-rays revealed it was not a back problem but one stemming from arthritis in his hip, Chris went to see Dr. David Prybyla of Orthopedic Surgical Associates in Chelmsford. Additional testing revealed the arthritis was too advanced to get any relief from medications and physical therapy.
On Thursday, November 12, Dr. Prybyla performed the two-hour surgery, and Chris’s care team at Lowell General Hospital’s Orthopedics Center had him walking early the next morning after surgery. That same day, Chris attended two group physical therapy classes and was able to go home on Saturday after another morning group therapy class.
“The new [Joint Replacement] program they have at Lowell General is great. It was extremely motivational, and I’m the first to admit that sometimes I’m just not that disciplined. But when you are in a group of 8-10 other people — it just pushes you that much farther."
“The physical therapists and nurses made me understand how important the exercises were to my recovery and in preventing any complications. I met another guy in the class who had a great sense of humor — I never expected to be joking around after having surgery.”
Chris said one of the things that made his journey much easier was knowing what to expect.
“Another great part of The Joint Replacement Program was the preparation. Before surgery, you are required to take a seminar that goes over everything you need to know and do before, during, and after surgery. It really set my expectations in terms of pain and recovery time. I was even given homework while was at the hospital to make sure I was ready to go home.”
The excellent care didn’t stop when Chris left the hospital. His nurses, physical therapists and case manager, together with the staff at Circle Home, ensured a smooth transition home and back to his daily activities. Visits by Circle Home nurses and physical therapists in the weeks following surgery helped ensure he didn’t overdo it and was healing well.
Chris is pleased with his progress. “I really didn’t need a walker for long; I pretty much went straight to crutches and was getting around with just a cane after a week. The program stresses that the more you move early and get up out of bed, the better you will do. I’m a testament to that.”
Joint Replacement Surgery – Is It for You? FAQs
Joint replacement surgery involves removing an arthritic, diseased, or injured joint and replacing it with a new artificial joint, most commonly made of metal and plastic.
Most patients who undergo total hip replacement are over age 50, with the most common condition being osteoarthritis. This happens when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time. As this cartilage deteriorates, patients experience chronic pain while bending, walking, and going about daily activities.
We resort to total joint replacement only when all other methods of pain control have failed to provide relief, and a patient’s quality of life is severely affected. Patients go through a rigid diagnostic workup using X-rays and a physical exam to determine mobility, strength, and alignment.
The knee and hip are the most common areas, as they bear the most body weight. In fact, during activity, 5-7 times a person’s body weight is transported across the hips.
In knee replacement surgery, a 5-8 inch incision is made in the front of the knee, and the worn out surfaces of the knee are resurfaced with metal and plastic components. In a total hip replacement, the surgeon may perform a posterior hip replacement (from the back with a 5-8 inch incision) or in some cases can perform an anterior (from the front) replacement. The artificial “ball and socket” component of the hip is then fitted into the bone or cemented into place.
Pain after knee or hip replacement surgery varies from person to person, but modern medications and improved anesthesia techniques greatly help our ability to control pain and discomfort. We focus on multi-modal pain relief, which means approaching pain pathways from all different directions — including various types of anesthesia, local nerve blocks, medications applied locally at the site of surgery, and post-operative medications that help reduce pain and nausea.
Most patients should be able to graduate from using a walker or crutches to a cane in 1-4 weeks and to independent walking and driving within 4-8 weeks.
Over the last 10 years, there has been a strong focus to get patients mobile quickly to help reduce the risk of blood clots or other complications after surgery. The artificial joints are also made of better materials and technology. They used to last about 10-15 years, now we think they will last 20 years or more.
Seeing patients up and moving within hours of their surgery — they are surprised and often tell me they wish they had done it sooner!
Motion is life — and if a patient can’t enjoy the things they love to do like golfing, walking through the mall, or chasing their grandchildren — that’s not living. There’s nothing more rewarding than helping restore a patient’s mobility, function, and quality of life.