Time (and Your Doctor) Will Tell

Hip and knee implants are far superior than those of even 10 years ago. New materials translate to longer artificial joint life which, in theory, opens the door to earlier replacements. What’s more, minimally-invasive, anterior approach hip replacements and the 3D precision of Mako® robot assisted knee replacements are yielding excellent patient outcomes. Patients experience less post-operative pain, shorter if any hospital stay, and a faster return to greater mobility. 

As a result, patients are often inquiring about joint replacements much earlier in life. Osteoarthritis, the common arthritic joint disease, is the underlying cause of discomfort in more than 50% of the aging population. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, which is a genetic disease that affects patients young and old, osteoarthritis (OA) is more or less the result of normal wear and tear of the joint, which of course, advances with age. The risk of developing OA increases with obesity, repeated joint stress, and joint injuries.

Persons experiencing pain in the hips, knees, hands, or shoulders should understand that osteoarthritis is classed by 4 stages, and there may be a more suitable treatment modality based on their specific stage. 

In general: 

In Stage 1, people have developed minor wear-and-tear in their joints, and may be advised to modify exercises slightly to maintain strength. In addition, simple pain management techniques like ice or rest can be helpful. After all, motion is lotion. 

If Stage 2, x-rays may reveal bone spurs or mild joint space narrowing. This is the stage where people can experience stiffness and soreness after sitting or with specific activities. OTC pain reliever like acetaminophen or anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or naproxen can be helpful, weight loss if needed, and a more modified workout routine may be suggested. 

In Stage 3, the cartilage between bone and joint has eroded. The joint becomes inflamed and causes discomfort during normal daily activity. Some treatments include OTC pain relievers or anti-inflammatories, prescription anti-inflammatories, and in some cases, injections of steroids or lubricating medication like hyaluronic acid. 

The most severe stage of OA, Stage 4 is also the most painful. Cartilage is gone, hence the term “bone on bone” leading to pronounced inflammation. The bone spurs may have multiplied, often causing pain and limited motion. At this stage, it may be time to seriously consider joint replacement. 

Regardless of your level of discomfort with joint pain, our experts can discuss available options that will work best for you. Contact us today for an appointment.