The objective of this study was to examine the change in pain and physical function that occurs while waiting for major arthroplasty. Data were collected prospectively from a cohort of 313 patients who were waiting > 1 month for total hip arthroplasty or total knee arthroplasty. The WOMAC and the SF-36 health status instruments were administered at the time the patient was placed on the waiting list and again just before surgery. Minimal amounts of change in pain and physical and psychosocial function occurred for hip and knee arthroplasty patients while they waited. Overall, waiting time did not appear to have a negative impact on the amount of pain and dysfunction experienced.