Experience has proven the success of total joint replacement for treating knee and hip pain. Yet, there’s a long list of non-surgical treatment options available, which should be considered prior to surgery. McLeod Orthopedic Specialist Dr. David Woodbury discusses options to help with pain and mobility.
Here are some highlights of Dr. Woodbury’s comments.
What are some non-surgical treatment options? Diet and exercise are useful.
Certainly, a balanced diet is helpful to help manage your weight and keep you healthy. Dietary supplements? The long-term effects are not known. So, talk to you doctor about them. Some can cause other problems, such as anti-coagulation of the blood and interference with your other medications.
Aerobic exercise, such as walking or biking, are helpful and can improve your cardiovascular fitness. It also increases muscle strength around your joints.
Short-term bed rest is useful in reducing joint pain and inflammation when multiple joints are affected and fatigue is a problem. It’s most useful when arthritis involves only one or a few joints.
If you have on arthritic joint and you can rest it, that’s often useful. Walking assistive devices are good, particularly with osteoarthritis of the hip, it’s been shown that if you use a cane in the opposite hand, it decreases the hip joint’s reactive forces and relieves the pain.
Medications are useful. Occasionally, cortisone injections are useful with mild arthritis in a patient that’s not ready for surgery. Glucosamine is a nutritional supplement that you’ll see sold at pharmacies over the counter. This has been shown to have some benefit in very mild osteoarthritis, but you have to take it for about two months before you know if it is going to be effective. So, keep that in mind if you go to the store and buy a box of glucosamine.
Let’s talk about one of the things that people hate talking about—weight loss. The average American is 20-40 pounds overweight. If you look at the fact that you are taking 5,000 to 7,000 steps a day, that’s a lot of extra weight you are carrying on those steps. I tell patients every day that getting down to ideal body weight can improve joint pain. We’ve seen patients that start out in the obese or morbidly obese category with joint problems and knee pain. They get down to ideal body weight and often knee pain significantly improves or even resolves and they don’t end up needing surgery.
Sometimes a shower or tub chair is helpful to keep you from standing in tub or shower, which are actually very dangerous places. Sock grippers are useful with hip arthritis because often the person cannot cross their legs to be able to pull socks on or reach their shoes.
Occasionally, analgesics are needed. Mild analgesics are useful for mild arthritis. Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) include ibuprofen and naproxen. Cox 2 inhibitors are another type of NSAID medication, which are a little easier on the stomach. You can take the Cox-2 inhibitors if you are on aspirin or blood thinners. The other medications can actually counteract the effects of your aspirin.