Is Arthritis Limiting Your Ability to Enjoy Life?
May 02, 2018
When it comes to your joints, cartilage acts as a cushion to cover and protect the ends of the bones. When you have arthritis – a condition that affects approximately 43 million Americans each year – your cartilage becomes thin and worn out causing pain, swelling, and loss of motion to the joint. The knees, hips, back, and hands are areas of the body most often effected by osteoarthritis.
“I often describe cartilage in terms of the tires on a car – when you first get them you have a really deep tread but after driving 80,000 miles it starts to wear down and makes them less effective,” said orthopedic surgeon, Jeffrey Postma, DO.
Throughout our lives, all of us will experience wear and tear of the joints to some degree. When this softening or disintegration of cartilage occurs, our bodies natural reaction is to develop bone spurs around the joint to limit its motion.
“Your body is trying to fuse the joint together so that it doesn’t hurt any more, but this loss of motion is typically what causes us to seek treatment because we are no longer able to participate in the activities we love,” said Dr. Postma. “Patients often ask if I can simply remove the bone spurs, but that doesn’t correct the problem long-term because the wear and tear on the joint still occurs.”
Conservative treatment options:
- Change in activity to avoid high impact activities
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Walking aids such as cane or walker
- Physical therapy and exercise
- Injections into the joint to provide artificial cushion
- Steroid injections to reduce inflammation
Surgical treatment options:
- Arthroscopy – If there’s mechanical symptoms such as a catching or a locking of the joint, orthopedic surgeons can use a scope to clean things out and remove any loose cartilage to try and relieve symptoms. This treatment method can help alleviate pain for six months to a year but is not a permanent solution. It is often more effective in mild cases of arthritis.
- Arthrodesis/fusion – People with osteoarthritis in a finger or toe can have the joints fused together to make one solid piece. Many people can’t tolerate a knee or hip joint that is fused in one position so this is not an effective treatment option for these areas of the body.
- Arthroplasty/total joint replacement – This inpatient procedure removes the diseased ends of the bone and replaces them with an artificial joint, called a prosthesis. Your muscles and ligaments remain in place to try and make it the most natural feel possible. This treatment option can eliminate or significantly reduce pain in the joint and enhance movement and mobility. Our goal is to have the full motion back to the joint after surgery.
When should you consider joint replacement surgery?
- Conservative options fail to provide relief
- Diminished quality of life, you stop the activity you like to do
- Pain that is unacceptable to you
- After discussing with an orthopedic surgeon
- After educating yourself about your options
“Only you can determine when the right time to have surgery,” said Dr. Postma. “If you’ve reached a point when you can no longer tolerate the pain – joint replacement surgery may be a great option for you.”
Learn more in the video below: