Are there alternatives to joint replacement surgery?
22 March 2020
Are you suffering from pain in your knees, hips or other joints and not sure what to do about it? It's nice to know joint replacement surgery is not your only option for relief. Many people living with pain and stiffness caused by arthritis, injuries, falls, etc. often avoid going to the doctor thinking that surgery will be prescribed. They live with the pain, and as a result their quality of life and active lifestyle suffer. According to Frank Giammattei, M.D., a board-certified orthopaedist with Premier Orthopaedics at Crozer-Keystone Health System, "Patients do not have to live in fear of treatment ... surgery should be used only as a last resort."
Before joint replacement surgery, doctors may recommend:
Weight loss through diet and exercise
To relieve pain, doctors often encourage patients to lose weight, as every extra 10 pounds is like having another 30+ pounds of pressure on your knees.
Although the controversy surrounding opioids has impacted the prescription and use of pain medications such as oxycontin and percocet, over-the-counter medications, such as NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), are proven to help relieve inflammation, pain, stiffness and swelling caused by osteoarthritis and other conditions. Glucosamine sulfate is also effective in reducing pain and other symptoms. Most patients can tolerate this and NSAIDs with minimal, if any, side effects.
Doctors may also recommend physical therapy to reduce joint pain and stiffness. Dr. Giammattei says, "Our specially trained physical therapists work closely with patients, customizing an exercise plan that helps strengthen the muscles supporting the joint." In addition to physical therapy, they may also apply the right mix of heat and ice, or incorporate other methods such as electronic nerve stimulation to reduce inflammation and increase blood flow to the joint. Many patients enjoy working with a therapist, as they are with them every step of the way, providing motivation, guidance and support.
Another option available to patients is cortisone or hyaluronic acid shots, used to relieve pain and lubricate the muscles supporting the joint, respectively. If they work, these shots can reduce pain in the short term and last for months.
Minimally invasive surgery
If none of the above treatments are effective, doctors may try minimally invasive or arthroscopic surgery. Through small incisions, doctors insert a scope with a camera at the end of it. The camera produces images that allow surgeons to not only assess any damage of cartilage, bone, etc., but also to repair it using tiny instruments. Strong candidates for this procedure often experience sharp pain or feel that their joints lock or catch. Many who undergo arthroscopic surgery are able to avoid replacement surgery completely, or at least delay it.
There are several other procedures available in the doctors' arsenal, such as the osteotomy. During this procedure, which is usually recommended for younger patients, the surgeon cuts into or shortens a bone to relieve pressure from an arthritic area.
Some patients also choose to incorporate alternative medicines and therapies, such as acupuncture.
If you are experiencing joint pain, be sure to speak with your doctor about your options.
For more information about Premier Orthopaedics at Crozer-Keystone and/or to make an appointment, fill out our appointment form or call 855-255-6468.