Osteoarthritis, or “wear and tear” arthritis, is the most common form of arthritis and can affect any joint in the body, but most commonly in the knees, hips and hands. Affecting approximately 32.5 million US adults, experts believe as the nation’s population grows older, this number will also grow.
With May being Arthritis Awareness Month, what better time to take a deep dive into arthritis, its causes, symptoms and treatment options?! We sat down with Dr. Ryan Jaggers, board-certified orthopedic surgeon at Central Indiana Orthopedics, to ask him about arthritis (specifically osteoarthritis) and what people can do to take control of their pain. Read on to see what he had to say.
How old are people generally when they get arthritis?
Most commonly, arthritis starts affecting people later in life, around 50-60 years old, but unfortunately, we see it starting earlier and earlier. People who have had traumatic injuries or a specific sports injury earlier in life, depending on the consequences of that injury, are presenting with arthritis at much earlier ages. On the other hand, some people make it into their seventies before they start having any symptoms.
What are the symptoms of arthritis?
The most common symptoms of arthritis include joint pain and stiffness, loss of mobility and limited range of motion. Other symptoms someone may notice include swelling around the joint, instability, clicking or popping when the joint bends or muscle weakness around the joint. A diagnosis can come from the evaluation of an orthopedic provider, in addition to x-ray imaging of the affected joint.
What causes arthritis?
Arthritis can be caused by a variety of factors. Most commonly, it’s gradual wear and tear over time where the articular cartilage starts to wear away, similar to how the tread on a tire can slowly wear away. There are many different things that can predispose arthritis, such as genetics, deformities and traumatic injuries. For example, in a situation such as a torn meniscus, if a significant amount of the meniscus is lost then it can lead to increase contact pressures on the joint and can accelerate arthritis.
Can arthritis be prevented or cured?
Although there is not a definitive way to prevent arthritis, there are certainly recommendations to help reduce risk, such as maintaining a healthy weight and trying to remain active with low impact activities. Additionally, while there is no cure for arthritis, it can be treated and managed to minimize pain and maintain a good quality of life. Treatment options range from conservative approaches, such as making lifestyle changes, to a more aggressive approach, like joint replacement. Each individual is unique, and so the treatment plan should be unique, too.
What treatment options are available?
If possible, we try to start with the most conservative approaches first, such as making appropriate lifestyle changes. If a patient is overweight, we discuss weight loss which decreases the amount of stress on their joints. If the patient is into heavy lifting or CrossFit activities that put a lot of stress on the body, we discuss making modifications. Physical therapy or home exercises are additional conservative methods patients can try to improve motion and strengthen muscles around the joints, which dampens the load that the joints feel. Anti-inflammatory medications (such as Aleve or Ibuprofen), pain relievers (such as Tylenol) and steroid injections have also proven to be successful to temporarily reduce pain or inflammation caused by arthritis.
In terms of surgical treatment for arthritis, the most effective treatment would be joint replacement. Joint replacement is recommended when the patient has end-stage arthritis and conservative approaches have failed. Joint replacement for total knee, partial knee and total hip can be performed in an outpatient or inpatient setting and is determined based on a variety of factors, including the patient’s health.
In part 2, we’ll take a deeper dive into joint replacement and different surgical options available, including Mako SmartRobotics™ technology, an innovative surgical tool that allows patients to have a more predictable experience when undergoing joint replacement surgery. If you or someone you know is experiencing chronic joint pain, call 800-622-6575 to schedule an appointment, or learn more about our joint replacement services at ciocenter.com/services/surgery-revision/.