As people age, their joints can develop degenerative disease. The underlying cause is usually a form of arthritis or for the athletic-types, unusual wear and tear. The pain can be excruciating which limits that person’s mobility. Decreased mobility leads to loss of muscle usage and joint range of motion. All of this will affect a person’s sex life. Pain and inability to function normally can and does put the kibosh on bedroom activities.
In severe cases where pain levels exceed tolerance, a joint replacement may be ordered by an orthopedic surgeon. Joint replacements have come a long way in the past 25 years. With advances in technology, nearly a million people a year now have at least one total hip or total knee replacement. The improvement in their quality of life is substantial. After 3-6 months post-op, these patients can again walk and enjoy normal everyday activities without pain.
In younger patients, however, reaching the point where joint replacement is the only option has been an uphill battle. Getting a doctor to replace a whole joint in persons under the age of 50 is a task, or was in the last 20 years since average viability expectancy of that prosthetic was about 10 years. Following that time, a revision surgery would need to be performed in which the old prosthetic is replaced; kind of like car maintenance. For younger patients with joint degenerative disease, a sex life was not a major concern for their physician so much as preventing multiple surgeries. They preferred to treat the symptoms of pain and put off surgery until a later date. Because of the impairment of sexual function in both younger and older patients needing joint replacements, it became important to Dr. Jose A. Rodriguez, director of the Center for Joint Preservation and Reconstruction at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, to perform a survey on the subject.
According to an article in USA Today written by Janice Lloyd, Dr. Rodriguez presented his findings at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons in Chicago on March 19th, 2013. He states “"Sexual function needs to be discussed with patients when we make routine evaluations. I've found most patients to be very receptive to talking about it."
He makes the case for younger patients with a story about a young woman in a wheelchair in her twenties. The woman was denied hip replacement (18 years ago) by her doctor who thought her too young and was worried she would need to go through several revisions. All she wanted was to be able to make love with her husband again. As we know, sex is important for bonding in a relationship.
Her doctor need not have worried so much. Another young woman had double hip replacement surgeries at the age of 21 (23 years ago) and bi-lateral knee replacements at the age of 23. All four joints have since been revised once over with a lifetime prognosis on those prosthetics by her physician. This young woman suffered Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosed at the age of five. In her late teens, the disease went into remission and stayed there leaving behind a great deal of joint damage that made walking extremely painful. Her crew of physicians sought to make her quality of life much improved with the surgical replacements. Afterwards, she was finally able to open her hips wide enough (almost into splits!) and have sex for the first time. The surgeries opened changed her life and she has been pain-free and functioning since. That young woman is the author of this article. Talk about speaking from experience!
Dr. Rodriguez shares that the newer prosthetics can now last two to three decades depending on level of activity. Twice as many patients get knee replacements versus hip implants, but either way, doing so radically improves the quality of that person’s life. Being pain-free is a blessing in itself, but being pain-free and able to have sex with the ones they love is a bonus.
Average time to heal post operatively is between 3-6 months. Generally by the third month, the patient is walking around again without the use of crutches or a cane. Each day out from surgery is a little better. Expect the surgical site to feel tight (like a packed sausage), and it will also feel very heavy to lift and move. It is not unusual for patients to stand up the next day following surgery with the help of a physical therapist. A CPM (continual perpetual motion) machine is used while the patient is lying down to work the joint gently, and daily therapy aides the patient in walking a few steps further each day.
At the end of recovery, most people can resume normal activities but always with care in mind for the limitations of the new joint. New hips can dislocate in unusual circumstances such as crossing one’s legs. This is not a frequent problem (the author has never had this difficulty). New knees can come loose over time with exceptional physical activity. However, those with joint replacements can once again enjoy the wonders of sex with their partner. For knee and hip friendly positions, check out Sex Positions for the Medically Challenged.
If you suffer DJD (degenerative joint disease) that is interfering with not only your usual daily activities, but also your sex life, be sure to discuss this with your doctor to determine the best course of action for you.
M. Gwynn has authored two books, Harvest and The Cat Who Wanted to be a Reindeer on Amazon.com .
All articles by Michele Gwynn are under copyright and cannot be re-posted whole without written consent by the author. Partial re-posting with a link back to the original article is permitted. For consent, questions, or comments, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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