Joints are present at every point in the body where two bones come together. Joints provide the flexibility for us to move about our daily lives, freely. Because every move we make affects our joints, we tend to notice immediately when those joints become tender or stiff.
Mild joint pain is fairly common and can often be successfully managed at home using over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium, applying ice for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day and resting the affected joint.
If joint pain does not subside, it may be time to see a physician. If the pain becomes extreme, if it was caused by an injury, if you are unable to use the joint or experience sudden swelling, I recommend you see an orthopedic surgeon immediately. We are often able to return patients back to normal daily activities much faster if patients seek treatment right away. I keep several appointment slots open in my practice just for this purpose.
The title orthopedic “surgeon” sounds like all I do is perform surgery, and although I spend a lot of time in the operating room, I also provide a multitude of non-surgical treatment options as well. I see many adults in my practice who live very active lives, including farmers and ranchers. I understand the need to get them back to life as quickly as possible.
I always start with the least invasive treatments possible, and we work our way through a variety of treatments until we find a way to relieve their pain and return them to the lifestyle they are accustomed to.
There are numerous treatments for joint pain. Often we can manage the pain through medications, physical therapy, lifestyle changes and rest. For example, through therapy I can direct a treatment plan where we not only relieve the pain, but help the patient learn a new way of performing a task such as lifting or repetitive motions to prevent further pain and damage.
We can teach the patient a new exercise designed to strengthen muscles around the joint, we can stretch and relax ligaments, tendons and muscles, which will restore movement and, of course, we can provide a variety of therapies to reduce inflammation and pain while promoting healing.
When these treatments are no longer effective and the pain continues, we may need to look at joint replacement surgery.
Joint Replacement Overview
Several conditions can cause joint pain and disability and lead patients to consider joint replacement surgery. In many cases, joint pain is caused by damage to the cartilage that lines the ends of the bones (articular cartilage), either from arthritis, a fracture or another condition.
A total joint replacement is really a cartilage replacement with an artificial surface. The joint itself is not replaced, as is commonly thought, but rather, an artificial substitute for the cartilage is inserted on the end of the bones. This is done with a metal alloy and a plastic spacer to create a new smooth cushion and a functioning joint that does not hurt.
Some people will delay seeing an orthopedic surgeon because they fear surgery. My patients frequently say they wish they had come to me much sooner, and it’s not uncommon to see a patient who could have put off joint replacement surgery if we could have performed less invasive treatments early on.
Joint replacement surgery takes a few hours, and patients are usually up and walking, with the aid of a walker, the next day. They are typically discharged with physical therapy and rehabilitation, and can resume normal activities unaided within a relatively short period of time. However, some may still need physical therapy for a while. More than 90 percent of patients are ultimately able to resume daily activities pain free.
Though few people look forward to having a surgical procedure, my patients usually say that returning to their daily activities with the absence of constant pain, was well worth it.
Dr. Tyson Trimble is a board certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves (musculoskeletal system) with INTREGRIS Grove Hospital in Grove, Okla.