Arthritis is a common condition that affects more than 50 million adults, although the causes of it aren't well understood. The term arthritis is actually a colloquial way of referring to more than 100 different joint conditions and diseases. Symptoms of arthritis include joint stiffness, decreased range of motion and joint pain.
Arthritis pain can range from unpleasant and annoying to downright debilitating. It can hinder movement and activities, and ultimately cause disability or other serious complications if not treated. Fortunately there are several options for how to treat arthritis pain that can be effective, especially if you undergo proper treatment in the beginning stages of arthritis. Catching arthritis early is so important to avoiding unnecessary pain and complications down the line. A fellowship-trained orthopedic doctor can help determine the appropriate combination of treatments to maximize your arthritis pain relief.
1. Physical Therapy
Part of an initial course of treatment for arthritis pain will likely be orthopedic physical therapy. Physical therapists are trained in the ailments affecting the musculoskeletal system, and can help you learn to improve flexibility, build strength and improve posture to alleviate pain and stiffness in the affected joints. By combining skilled, hands on intervention with therapeutic exercise, physical therapists can get you back on track to living a healthy, active life. Physical therapy is often combined with treatment like corticosteroid shots in order to maximize its effectiveness.
2. Corticosteroid Shots
Corticosteroid shots — often cortisone and prednisone — are often used to treat arthritis. Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medications that are injected into the joint to relieve swelling and suppress the activity of the immune system. They can provide a temporary relief from arthritis pain to allow patients to start a physical therapy regimen that will help with long-term pain management. The effects of cortisone last from a few days through a few months.
3. Gel Injections
In cases where addition or longer lasting relief is needed, hyaluronic acid supplements — also called viscosupplementation or gel injections — may be used for arthritis pain relief. Hyaluronic acid acts like a substance that occurs naturally in the joints. Like cortisone, it serves as an anti-inflammatory, along with working like a lubricant or a shock absorber that allows the joint to move comfortably. An orthopedic specialist will usually administer the gel injection in the affected area several times over a period of weeks. The effects can last, in some cases, over a year. You may have heard advertisements touting gel injections as an almost miraculous cure-all for arthritis. As part of a proper and thorough treatment regimen prescribed by a fellowship-trained orthopedic doctor they can be effective, but you will also likely undergo a course of physical therapy and cortisone before gel injections are prescribed for arthritis pain relief. They would not likely be the first course of treatment.
Very few people who suffer from arthritis pain end up requiring orthopedic surgery of any kind. However, in cases where all other courses of treatment have been exhausted, surgery may be an option. Surgical procedures for arthritis include partial joint replacement and total joint replacement, which is now often conducted on an outpatient basis. Talk to a fellowship-trained orthopedic expert to find out what level of treatment is appropriate for your arthritis.
Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants offers a full range of care for arthritis pain, from physical therapy to orthopedic surgery.