Ways to reduce pain and increase mobility.
Osteoarthritis. When your doctor first diagnosed you with this condition, what was your reaction? “Many patients are fearful when they first receive this diagnosis,” reports orthopedic surgeon Jim Fordyce, D.O., of Meadows Health Orthopedics. “They envision never-ending pain, or maybe they fear being disfigured by the swollen joints or an inability to straighten their back or limbs.” Such fears can be quickly put to rest, as they are highly unlikely outcomes for osteoarthritis patients today.
But perhaps even more daunting for some is the thought of major surgery to replace the arthritic joint. Is such a surgery inevitable, some patients wonder? How risky is it? How likely is it to fix the problem?
Knee pain while climbing stairs is often the first sign of osteoarthritis.*
There is plenty of good news to address these questions. First, Meadows Health Orthopedics offers a range of osteoarthritis treatment options, and major surgery is considered only if the ailment progresses to an advanced stage. “But if joint replacement is recommended for you, rest assured that this procedure is safe and effective for nearly all patients,” Dr. Fordyce says.
What Are Your Options?
A large array of treatment options may minimize pain and slow the progression of osteoarthritis. “This malady occurs when cartilage [the material covering the end of a bone to reduce friction and absorb shock] loses its flexibility or starts to wear away,” Dr. Fordyce explains. “So switching from joint-jarring exercises such as jogging to gentler exercises like swimming is one of the first treatments we recommend. Weight loss also can help save the cartilage.” Sometimes supportive devices such as knee braces or sleeves can alleviate some of the painas well as some of the wear-and-tear on the joint.
The pain associated with moderate osteoarthritis can be treated with medicine. Simple over-the-counter pain relievers suffice for some. Depending on the degree of osteoarthritis and the patient’s pain level, in some cases prescription pain medicines may be recommended.
Other patients may receive injections of steroids to reduce inflammation, or “viscosupplements” (like Synvisc) to coat the joint where there is cartilage loss. “These are less invasive procedures,” Dr. Fordyce comments. “They don’t require surgery and a recovery period as a joint replacement does, plus they come with fewer side effects.”
Sometimes fluid may accumulate at an arthritic joint. A very simple outpatient procedure can be employed to drain the fluid and relieve any problems it may cause. Another less- invasive surgical procedure is arthroscopy, which may be used to remove damaged cartilage.
The orthopedic specialists at Meadows Health Orthopedics work closely with patients to determine which of the above treatments may relieve their osteoarthritic symptoms or slow the progression of the disease. “Each patient’s lifestyle, activities, physical condition and other factors come into play,” Dr. Fordyce says. “We determine the best course ofaction for each individual patient in partnership with that patient.”
When and Why should you consider Joint Replacement?
The primary reason to consider joint replacement, of course,is if you have found that these other treatments are not adequately addressing your pain and other symptoms. “We encourage patients to opt for a joint replacement only when they come to believe it is their best choice,” Dr. Fordyce notes, “and then we work with them to ensure that they feel ready to move forward with the surgery.”
Meadows Health Orthopedics believes in fully preparing you for what to expect from your joint replacement before you have the operation. We offer a Joint Replacement Class for any member of the public considering a joint replacement. From prepping your home before your surgery to recovery tips to a question-and-answer session with an expert, this class is a must if you’re considering a joint replacement.
If you choose to have joint replacement surgery with Meadows Health Orthopedics, we perform any necessary exams and diagnostic tests to thoroughly assess your condition. Our staff then learns more about your lifestyle and needs. We answer any questions you have in clear language – not medical jargon. Then we schedule your procedure.
Plan to spend a few days at the hospital following joint replacement. From there, most joint replacement patients recover at home with the help of a home health nurse and a physical therapist. Some patients choose to begin their recovery at a rehabilitation facility prior to home recovery.
*Source: 2015 University of Leeds study
The Stages of Osteoarthritis
Cartilage begins to break down, causing the joint space to narrow. By stage IV, 60 percent of the cartilage is lost.