Millions of Americans suffer from pain, discomfort, aches and soreness in their joints. The pain may be caused by injury, inflammation, illness, arthritis or other reasons. Many people try to manage their joint pain by using over-the-counter medications in addition to ice therapy, massage, low-impact exercise, rest or immobilizing the area with a brace or splint.
However, it is important to know when a visit to a primary care physician or orthopaedic specialist is needed.
Dr. R. Chris Reams of MU Orthopaedic Surgeons at Liberty Hospital says that each person is different, and whenever pain is not managed easily at home, it’s time to talk to a health care provider.
Both Reams and Dr. Andrew J. Taiber, also of MU Orthopaedic Surgeons at Liberty Hospital, suggest that patients start small and work up to more aggressive treatment options, as needed. Some joint pain may be managed by staying active, including stretching and strengthening, anti-inflammatory injections, managing diabetes and maintaining a healthy weight. Nicotine also impacts bone health, so smoking cessation is important.
When patients voice concern about doing additional damage through movement, Taiber suggests talking to a provider about possible low-impact movements that will not create further damage, such as walking or swimming in place of running.
“The key is staying active, whenever possible,” Taiber said.
Risk factors for joint pain include excess weight, lack of muscle flexibility or strength, certain sports activities, previous injury and more.
When it comes to treatment philosophy, both physicians collaborate with their patients to understand their treatment goals and then provide non-surgical options for pain management, as well as surgical options, if needed.
“We partner with patients to provide them with conservative and surgical options and then allow them to make choices based on what is best for them,” said Reams.
When patients ask whether it is time for surgical joint replacement, Taiber suggests the right timing for surgery is different for everyone: “When you get to a point that joint replacement is the only option for change, that is the right time to consider it.”
Another common question from patients is about the usefulness of alternative remedies for joint pain, such as fish oil and shark cartilage.
“The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons does not provide specific recommendations regarding fish oil and shark cartilage,” said Taiber.
If a person experiences an injury accompanied by intense pain, inability to use the joint, or sudden swelling, he or she should see a health care provider immediately.
MU Orthopaedic Surgeons at Liberty Hospital is comprised of a team of surgeons who subspecialize in the back, knee, hip, shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, foot and more. MU Orthopaedic Surgeons at Liberty Hospital has the academic support of a large, professional organization with additional resources, including research, to provide the most advanced care for patients. To learn more, visit www.libertyhospital.org/mu.