Surgery is often the last resort with any kind of health care. Therefore, if your doctor is not recommending surgery for your hip or knee joints, there are other ways to alleviate pain, improve your mobility, and perhaps even help you avoid future surgery.
Medications- Over the counter medicines are usually the first choice of treatment for hip and knee osteoarthritis. Simple pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), can be purchased without a prescription and can often be effective in reducing pain. Non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil), or naproxen (Aleve) help to reduce pain and swelling in the joint. Stronger more potent pain relievers are available with a prescription. Always read labels for possible side effects and dosage.
Injections- Cortisone injections may provide you with pain relief and reduce inflammation. Cortisone shots can help if there is significant swelling, but are not very helpful if the arthritis is affecting your movements. How long the injection works before it wears off is variable. There is some concern that repeated use of cortisone shots may cause deterioration of the cartilage within that joint. In people who have diabetes, cortisone injections can elevate the blood sugar. For these reasons, doctors usually limit the number of cortisone shots. In general, cortisone injections should not be given more often than every six weeks and usually not more than three or four times a year.
Viscosupplementation-Sometimes called rooster shots, this is a procedure in which a thick fluid called hyaluronate is injected into (usually) the knee joint. Viscosupplementation will not cure osteoarthritis. However, it is thought that hyaluronate will improve the lubricating properties of the synovial fluid, reduce the pain from osteoarthritis, improve mobility, and provide a higher and more comfortable level of activity. Due to anatomy around the hip joint, injections into the hip are more complicated and therefore less frequently prescribed. Viscosupplementation is typically not used until after medications and cortisone shots are tried first.
Weight Loss-Many people with osteoarthritis are overweight. Simple weight loss will reduce stress on your knees and hips. Based upon the physics, you put three to five times your body weight on your hips and knees – especially when climbing stairs and getting in and out of a chair. For example, every ten pounds of extra weight that you carry results in fifty pounds of weight-bearing pressure across your hips and knees. Losing weight can result in reduced pain and increased function, particularly in walking. Often, weight loss is required before a physician will consider knee or hip replacement for someone overweight or obese. Obesity complicates both the recovery and long-term success of knee or hip replacement surgery. Also, obese patients face additional risks during knee replacement surgery as with any surgery.
Exercise-Exercise can help increase your range of motion and flexibility as well as help strengthen the muscles in your legs. Exercise is often effective in reducing pain and improving function. Unfortunately, with advanced stages of arthritis (bone-on-bone), exercise can sometimes increase pain in your hips and knees. Your physician or physical therapist can help develop an individualized exercise program that meets your needs and lifestyle. Water exercises may be a great choice.
Braces and Splints-Braces may be helpful in knee arthritis if the arthritis is centered on one side or the other because a brace helps with stability.
Physical Therapy-Physical therapy may show you exercises to strengthen the muscles around your joint. Physical therapy may help improve joint function. It can also teach you proper form to make it easier for you to walk, bend, kneel, squat, and sit.
Alternative Therapies-Some alternative therapies include acupuncture and magnetic pulse therapy. Acupuncture uses needles to stimulate specific body areas to relieve pain or temporarily numb an area. It is used in many parts of the world, and evidence suggests that it can help ease arthritis pain. Magnetic pulse therapy is painless and works by applying a pulsed signal to the knee, which is placed in an electromagnetic field.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.