Joint Replacement Alternatives: 6 Treatments You Might Want to Try Before Going Under the Knife
By Dr Kanaan , Wake Sports Medicine : Raleigh , NC
Joint replacements have come a long way in the last few decades, and for many patients they provide the pain relief and function that they might have been waiting for many years. However, joint replacement is also a very serious surgery that carries with it a set of risks, not least of which might be actually making the pain worse.
Prior to any joint replacement, there are many nonsurgical treatments that can either prolong the time to getting a joint replacement, or completely eliminate the need for one.
Here are 6 treatments to consider trying before committing to a joint replacement surgery:
1. Good Physical Therapy
By strengthening the muscles surrounding a joint through a good physical therapy treatment program, you can unload much of the force on that joint, and decrease pain while at the same time increasing mobility. In general the stronger the muscles surrounding a joint, the less force actually transmitted through the painful joint surface.
2. Topical Medications
Many patients have problems with taking oral pain medications, and anti-inflammatories due to a variety of reasons. Luckily there are many topical medications on the market today that have been proven to be effective in the treatment of arthritic joints. These are usually in the form of patches, and creams. They have very little side effects, and many patients find great relief through regular use.
3. Cortisone Shots
Even though these have been around a long time, many patients have never tried a cortisone injection into the joint. When done properly, ideally with ultrasound guidance, these shots are not very painful, and can provide many months of pain relief. There are generally very few side effects, and these can be repeated in the future.
4. Lubricant Shots (Hyaluronic Acid/Rooster Comb)
Hyaluronic acid, also known as viscosupplementation injection, is used for the treatment of knee, hip, shoulder, elbow and ankle osteoarthritis. These injections (a natural substance made from rooster comb) can help control pain, provide lubrication, and replace hyaluronic acid in the joint. Insurance will usually pay for these injections, and most patients experience a significant decrease in pain levels within weeks of treatment.
5. PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma)
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy is a new and cutting edge option for giving a biological boost to the body’s own healing process. PRP treatment has gained significant attention in the media lately, and has been used by several NFL, NBA, NHL, and high-level collegiate players. PRP is processed from a person’s own blood while they wait in the office. Basically, it is a concentration of platelets, which are found in the blood and which contain many factors that are essential for healing an injured or diseased body region. Although PRP injections are very safe, there are still considered experimental by the FDA, and as such they are not covered by insurance. However, in those patients looking for one more option to try before surgery these injections are an option worth looking into.
A good fitting, and lightweight brace will almost always give a patient not only increased mobility, but also decrease pain the in the joint affected. The important part is to have a physician recommend the correct brace, as not all braces are the same. A good brace will unload the forces placed on the joint, and provide stability when the patient is active.