Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and affects the vast majority of patients with arthritis pain. Some refer to osteoarthritis as “wear and tear” arthritis. Another term is degenerative joint disease.
Osteoarthritis can affect any joint but most commonly affects the weight bearing joints, specifically the knees and hips. Basically, the padding between the joint deteriorates and, as the joint nears bone touching bone without padding, the joint hurts.
Treatment varies from activity modification to joint replacement. Conservative treatment includes avoiding impact exercises, such as running and jumping. As a general rule, exercises that are better for arthritis are as follows: swimming is better than biking, biking is better than elliptical, elliptical is better than walking, and walking is better than running. Weight loss is another method to lessen the impact across the joint.
Medications are frequently used but are often limited by side effects. Typical medications include anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or Aleve. These medications have to be used with caution due to gastrointestinal side effects and kidney side effects. Other medications include glucosamine, which has very few side effects.
Injections are an alternative for certain joints such as the knees. There are two types of injections. First, steroid shots have been the standard for many years. Although generally well tolerated, they have some limitations. A more recent advancement includes injection of a rooster cartilage derivative into the knee commonly referred to as rooster comb shots. These shots help to pad and lubricate the diseased joint.
Occasionally, certain types of braces can help arthritis pain. These are called off-loader braces and work to take weight off of the arthritic area.
When other treatment has failed, surgery may be the best option for osteoarthritis. We are often asked about arthroscopy for arthritis. The short answer is that scope surgery will not fix arthritis. Joint replacement is the only good option for stopping arthritis pain. It involves replacing the bone on bone joint that no longer has a pad with an artificial joint that is separated by a plastic cushion. We will be covering the specifics of these topics of surgeries in future publications of Athens Now. Look for us in future editions.
OrthoSports Athens is your hometown connection to cutting edge orthopedics and we are happy to evaluate and discuss specifics with you.
By Dr. J. Patrick Boyett, Orthopedic Surgeon