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Osteoarthritis: A Common Cause for Joint Pain
The most common kind of joint pain, osteoarthritis can be caused by:
- Performing jobs involving kneeling or squatting for more than an hour a day
- Jobs that require lifting, climbing or walking
- Playing sports that have a direct impact on the joint (such as football)
- Playing sports that involve twisting on the joints (basketball, soccer)
- Playing sports that involve throwing (baseball, football)
- Breaking bones or damaging cartilage or ligaments on a joint
- Being overweight
- A family history of arthritis
- Bleeding disorders that cause bleeding in the joint, such as hemophilia
- Disorders that blocks the blood supply near a joint, leading to avuncular necrosis
- Being over the age of 70
Pain and stiffness in the joints are the most common signs of osteoarthritis. Sometimes the pain is worse after exercise or when you put weight or pressure on the joint. You may notice a “popping” sound in the joints, called “crepitation”. Morning stiffness, which usually lasts about 30 minutes and normally goes away after you move around a bit, warming up the joint.
There are a number of pain relievers you can buy without a prescription, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen). If your pain continues, you might try non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Some people get relief from an over-the-counter drug that combines glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, such as MoveFree, or use a skin cream such as Capsaicin (Zostrix), to relieve pain.
Injections are also an option. These are very helpful because relief is immediate, and they reduce swelling and pain. One option is corticosteroids; another is artificial joint fluid, for knees (Synvisc and Hyalgan). Any injectable therapy needs to be re-injected every three to six months.
The least expensive way to modify joint pain is to stay active and get regular exercise. Your doctor can recommend a home exercise routine. If a local YMCA or high school offers water exercises or swimming, consider signing up. Getting enough sleep and losing weight, especially if you are overweight, can make a significant difference in your joint pain.
Heat and cold therapy are another suggestion to reduce joint pain, and heating pads and ice packs are easy to find stores. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is always helpful, and some people find that carbonated beverages increase their joint pain. Adjusting your diet for a month is usually long enough to determine whether the changes you’ve made will help with your joint pain.
Helpful Treatments for Joint Pain:
- Physical Therapy – Improving muscle strength often has a direct impact on reducing joint pain, and can also improve your sense of balance. Physical therapists can create a personal program, designed specifically for your needs. In most cases, the joint will feel better after 6 – 8 weeks.
- Massage Therapy – A massage therapist who works with doctors and understands medical conditions can be a valuable asset for reducing your joint pain.
- Braces – You should only use a brace if your doctor or therapist prescribes one. Braces limit the joint to little or no movement, supporting weak joints in order to delay joint replacement.
- Acupuncture – A form of Chinese medicine that provides short-term relief to people with joint pain.
A common tool in treating orthopedic injuries is Arthroscopy. Arthroscopy is a minimally-invasive diagnostic and treatment procedure used for conditions of a joint. Originally, Arthroscopy was a diagnostic tool only, used primarily for planning a standard open surgery. However, because of the development of new instruments and advanced surgical techniques, many conditions can also be treated with arthroscopic surgery alone.
Arthroscopy uses a small fiber optic scope inserted through a small incision in the skin to see inside a joint. It has two purposes: diagnostic and surgical. First it is a diagnostic tool, allowing surgeons to view joint problems without major surgery. During arthroscopy, the surgeon makes small incisions in the joint and inserts a camera the size of a pencil. This allows the surgeon to evaluate any knee damage. Depending on the problem found, surgeons may use arthroscopy to perform surgery by inserting small instruments through additional incisions to repair damage, such as a torn meniscus or a torn ligament.
Because arthroscopy uses tiny incisions, it results in less trauma, swelling, and scar tissue than conventional surgery. This means less time in the hospital and faster recovery than traditional open surgery. Problems can be diagnosed earlier and treated without serious health risks or more invasive procedures. Furthermore, because injuries are often addressed at an earlier stage, operations are more likely to be successful. Most arthroscopic surgery is performed in an outpatient setting under general anesthesia.
The following are often discovered and/or corrected during an arthroscopic procedure:
- pieces of loose bone and/or cartilage in the joint(s)
- bone spurs
- ligament tears
- tendon damage
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
Arthroscopic surgeries involve the following:
- an anesthetic is administered and a small incision is made
- the arthroscope is inserted through the incision
- other incisions may be made to introduce another small grasping, probing, or cutting tools
- light is transmitted via fiber optics at the end of the arthroscope
- information about the interior of the joint is transmitted to a screen
- corrective surgery, if necessary, may be performed during the initial diagnostic procedure
- dressings or bandages may be applied to the post-operative area
Common diagnostic procedures used with orthopedic injuries include MRI, CT scans, and x-rays – all of which can be reviewed by specialists in our imaging department. We can perform your initial diagnostic scans or can review previous scans as a referral or second opinion. For more information on our Radiology and Imaging services, click here.
If you require surgery to lessen joint pain, you will need physical therapy to help your body recover, and you are joint perform at tip-top shape. As part of your complete recovery, our doctors recommend Weiss offers inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation on site.