Arthritis is the inflammation of a joint often characterized by pain, stiffness and structural changes. Unfortunately, there are no known cures for arthritis but there are ways to manage the symptoms.
There are two types of arthritis: Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by damage in the cartilage between the bones in a joint creating a surface that is inflamed and painful. This damage occurs mostly in weight bearing joints and as a result of degeneration, but can also occur as a result of overuse or traumatic injury. Patients with osteoarthritis are treated by orthopedic specialists.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints, but it is caused by a chronic progressive autoimmune disease. This type of arthritis can affect multiple joints in the body. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis experience pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints and may feel tired and unwell. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis are treated by Rheumatologists.
What can an orthopedic specialist do for osteoarthritis?
An orthopedic specialist will do a thorough examination of the patient. If the diagnosis is indeed osteoarthritis, the x-ray will show the loss of cartilage in the joint. The treatment plan will then be tailored according to the extent of the damage in order to relieve the patient’s discomfort and allow them to return to their normal daily activities.
What types of treatment plans are available for osteoarthritis?
Diet and exercise is one of the first recommendations. A well balanced diet promotes overall good health and exercise improves joint mobility and strength. The specialist may order physical therapy to help the patient begin getting range of motion back into the joint.
Over-the-Counter medication may be suggested to control pain and inflammation. Drugs like acetaminophen aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen may be recommended as they can be effective.
Steroid injections such as cortisone, are very strong anti-inflammatories that provide relief after being injected directly into the joint. A patient can receive up to three steroid injections a year.
Artificial Joint Replacement may be part of the treatment plan when the patient has exhausted all other non-invasive and conservative measure to treat their symptoms. A patient will be offered this option when their pain hinders their ability to perform activities of daily living or their deformity worsens. The goal of the artificial joint replacement is to reduce pain, increase range of motion, increase activity level and improve the patient’s quality of life.
People experiencing arthritic joint pain for an extended period of time should consult with an orthopedic specialist to evaluate their symptoms and devise a treatment plan to reduce pain and improve quality of health.