When to see an orthopedist: Finding relief
If you're suffering from stiffness and the pain of arthritis you're not alone. Over 52 million adults and 294,000 children in the U.S. suffer from arthritis says the CDC. Luckily you don't have to live with the pain swelling and stiffness. There are many options available to help you manage your arthritis and avoid worsening problems. But do you know when to see an orthopedist?
Types of arthritis
Inflammation is our body's natural reaction to injury or disease. However in arthritic joints the inflammation is ongoing and if left untreated arthritis can lead to permanent disability or disfigurement.
According to the Arthritis Foundation there are over 100 forms of arthritis. The most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by a degeneration of joint cartilage through the natural aging process repetitive use or trauma and is usually found in weight-bearing joints like the knee or hip. In rheumatoid arthritis the joint lining becomes inflamed and may affect the entire body.
Treatment for arthritis depends on your pain level and the disease progression. Your primary care doctor may try a few conservative non-surgical treatments before moving on to surgery including:
- Over-the-counter medications. To control joint pain and inflammation your doctor may have you try anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin ibuprofen and naproxen to manage your symptoms.
- Prescription medications. If over-the-counter medications are ineffective a stronger anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed based on the type of arthritis its severity and your general health.
- Physical therapy. Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy to help strengthen the weakened muscles surrounding the joint. Therapy may decrease pain stiffness and inflammation and teach you ways to perform daily activities with less joint pain and strain.
- Assistive devices. Walking aids like canes crutches walkers or splints can help decrease the stress on your joints.
- Cortisone. Cortisone may help temporarily relieve pain and inflammation in some people with osteoarthritis. The Arthritis Foundation notes that this procedure involves injecting the steroid cortisone into your affected joint.
- Viscosupplementation. This method involves lubricating the joint by injecting hyaluronic acid - a naturally occurring substance that surrounds joints - into the knee joint according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).
When to see an orthopedist
If you're experiencing continued discomfort or decreased function it may be time to see a doctor specializing in joints known as an orthopedist. Orthopedists can help if you have the following symptoms:
- Continued severe joint discomfort that interferes with daily life and does not improve with non-surgical joint pain relief options
- If you have moderate or severe arthritis that is worsening
- You begin to have joint deformity
Surgery is a treatment option if you have severe arthritis or if nonsurgical treatments have failed. The goal of surgery is to reduce joint pain and improve function. According to the AAOS orthopedic procedures for arthritis include:
- Removing the damaged or diseased joint lining (arthroscopy)
- Realigning the joints (osteotomy)
- Replacing the entire joint (total joint replacement)
When it comes to joint pain always talk to your doctor. Together you can decide which treatment options are appropriate for your arthritis to keep you active and pain-free.