Joint surgery is often done to help correct joint problems that make moving difficult or painful. These can result from a number of different causes, such as a hereditary defect, injury or an illness that affects the joint. Any of these problems can cause pain or difficulty moving that may require joint surgery to correct the problem. One of the most common reasons for surgery is arthritis.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common reason why people have joint surgery, particularly joint replacement surgery. In addition to surgery to replace the entire joint component, other surgical procedures may be used to treat problems associated with OA.

In some cases, pieces of bone and cartilage can break off due to the deterioration of the joint. These pieces can float in the joint, causing pain. Removing these pieces through arthroscopic surgery can help relieve the pain. If OA severely damages a joint so that little cartilage is left and the bones rub against each other, total joint replacement surgery may be needed to replace the damaged joint with an implant that will function similarly to the original without the pain.

In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), inflammation eventually can cause the joint to change shape so the structures that make up the joint are out of place for proper functioning. Fingers, for example, may drift to one side of the hand so that it becomes difficult to grasp items or even straighten the fingers.

Joints severely damaged by RA may require total joint replacement to allow comfortable, proper movement. This type of surgery is common for people with RA and often helps them regain movement in these joints. Other types of surgery, such as synovectomy, can remove diseased joint lining to help relieve pain.

In ankylosing spondylitis, which commonly affects the spine or back, joints that normally allow the back to move in various directions become inflamed. Over time, joints and bones of the spine can become rigid and unable to move. Joint replacement surgery can be an effective treatment for some joints affected by ankylosing spondylitis, such as hips and shoulders. Complex spine surgery is sometimes used for these kinds of spine problems, but it is not widely performed.