Joint Pain – Understanding the Causes and Treatment Options
Following the orthopaedic evaluation, the orthopaedic surgeon will review and discuss the results with you. Based on his or her diagnosis, your treatment options may include:
- Physical therapy
- Joint fluid supplements
- Joint replacement
Many different medications are used to treat the pain and stiffness of arthritis. One of the most commonly prescribed types of drugs are the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, or NSAIDs, which can be taken long-term to reduce both the pain and swelling caused by arthritis.
Another type of medication prescribed to reduce severe pain and swelling are corticosteroids. Corticosteroid injections offer quick, effective pain relief. However, they can be used only a few times a year because they weaken bone and cartilage. Also, corticosteroids can cause other potentially serious side effects; their use must be monitored by a physician.
Physical therapy can be helpful in the management of OA and RA. For example, a physical therapist may recommend:
- Isometric (“pushing”) exercises to help build muscle strength without subjecting inflamed joints to excessive wear
- Isotonic (“pulling”) exercises to further increase muscle strength and help preserve function
- Daily walking, using a cane or other assistive device as needed
Joint Fluid Supplements
For patients whose knee joint pain does not improve with medication or physical therapy, “joint grease” injections may provide temporary relief. The knee is injected with a joint fluid supplement that acts as a lubricant for the damaged joint. Joint injection schedules and duration of relief vary according to the treatment chosen and the individual patient. However, these injections do not cure the diseased knee, and joint replacement may be needed as the joint worsens with time.
Total Joint Replacement
Total joint replacement is usually reserved for patients who have severe arthritic conditions. Circumstances vary, but generally patients are considered for total joint replacement if:
- Functional limitations restrict not only work and recreation, but also the ordinary activities of daily living
- Pain is not relieved by more conservative methods of treatment, such as those described above, by the use of a cane, and by restricting activities
- Stiffness in the joint is significant
- X-rays show advanced arthritis or other problems