If you live with joint pain, you are not alone, as approximately 27 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis — a condition involving the breakdown of cartilage (due to "wear and tear") between joints, causing pain and stiffness.

Those attending Newton Medical Center's Dinner with the Doctor Tuesday night heard specifics about those issues and treatments — including surgical options —from featured speaker Dr. J. Scott Pigg, a specialist in orthopaedic surgery and total joint reconstruction with Newton Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.

Pointing to arthritis (both osteo and rheumatoid) as the most common cause of joint pain, Pigg highlighted what that can do to joints like the knee and hip, as well as lining out some non-surgical treatment options — like losing weight, using walking aids, steroids (a temporary fix) and physical therapy. While he also noted the latter is not a cure, he did strongly encourage those suffering from joint pain to consider exercises like yoga and pilates.

As far as making the decision of when to address having an outright joint replacement, asking questions like if the pain is keeping you from doing what you want to do and if it is keeping you up at night are key in considering whether or not to have surgery.

"When you're not sleeping well, the rest of your day's not going well," Pigg said.

Replacements are fairly common, with Pigg noting about 300,000 hips and 705,000 knees are replaced across the country each year.

Discussing the process — like how a knee replacement is more of a "resurfacing" — Pigg also highlighted the advancements in technology that have improved the surgical process, with NMC being just the second hospital in Kansas to utilize Stryker Mako technology for robotic-arm assisted surgeries.

Using both a live demonstration and video to illustrate how the technology is used (using bone mapping via sensors), Pigg talked about just how that has advanced the process — allowing surgeons to put the implants in more precisely, as the robots have facilitated more accurate bone cuts.

The surgeon still does the actual cutting, Pigg noted, but the addition of the technology has taken out the guesswork — both during and after the operation. Pigg said recovery and patient satisfaction, anecdotally at least, are better with the robot-assisted surgery. Part of that, he stated, is because of just how precise and consistent the robots are.

"When I leave the operating room, I'm more confident," Pigg said. "I know exactly what those X-rays are going to look like."

First being utilized in 2006, Pigg noted the Mako technology has assisted in 83,000 knee and hip replacements total and while it can "feel like magic," the very real results and continued advancements (ankle replacements, making implants last longer, etc.) are something Pigg is happy to see.

Newton Medical Center's Dinner with the Doctor program was launched in 2009 with an emphasis on connecting the community with NMC staff when they aren't sick, as well as providing education and resources for community members.