Squeaky knees or achy hips got you down?
Do you suffer from swollen joints or achy hips or squeaky knees? Perhaps you have arthritis, a general term for inflammation of a joint. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis that tends to occur more in weight bearing joints such as hips, knees and spine, but it can occur in other joints in the body as well. Osteoarthritis is sometimes referred to as wear-and-tear arthritis. It destroys the cartilage — the soft slippery substance located at the ends of bones — that functions as a shock absorber. A medical professional performing a thorough medical exam and x-rays can diagnose arthritis.
Osteoarthritis symptoms usually involve pain, swelling and stiffness. Some common factors that increase your chance of developing arthritis are:
- Being overweight increases the stress on the joints and thus puts more load on the joints.
- Jobs in which people tend to squat or climb stairs excessively can increase stress on joints.
- High impact sports such as basketball, football and soccer can increase the chance of getting osteoarthritis.
- Arthritis will more commonly occur in families and there is a genetic link to forming arthritis
- Fractures or other joint injuries can increase the chance of developing arthritis later in life.
The hip joint is one of the joints most commonly affected. Hip arthritis and affects approximately five out of every 100 people over age 65. Some simple, but often temporary treatments for arthritis include:
- Icing a joint after aggressive activities.
- Performing low impact exercises such as swimming to help to keep the joint mobile and prevent stiffness.
- Losing weight to reduce the stresses that occur through the joint can significantly reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis.
- Using anti-inflammatory medications can help. However, there can be side effects such as a low incidence of ulcer formation or kidney trouble with the use of a class of medications such as NSAIDS (Motrin or Aleve are examples of medications in this drug class). Before taking these medications, check with a doctor to see if they are right for you. In some low quality studies glucosamine and chondroitin has been shown to have a beneficial effect in certain people. I recommend to my patients to use a good brand since this class of medications has less government oversight or regulation.
- Using an ambulatory aid such as cane or walker can provide more stability and reduce the pressure through the joint by as much as 30 percent, thus reducing the symptoms as well.
- Physical therapy can help increase the strength and stability of a patient.
- When the symptoms are still severe and bothersome after a thorough medical exam, a cortisone injection into or around the hip can sometimes be performed. This can provide some relief but will often be temporary in nature.
For a more permanent fix, hip replacement surgery can be considered. Approximately 300,000 hip replacements are performed each year. Of all the surgeries performed, hip replacement surgery is one of the most predictable in terms of success. And it has one of the highest rates of improvement in the quality of life of an individual. The techniques and instrumentation of hip replacement surgery have improved with time. However, at the core of the surgery the hip joint is replaced with an artificial ball and socket. The strength and age of an individual before surgery will determine how long it takes for an individual to recover from the surgery.
Each year, I perform approximately 100 joint replacements and more than 400 surgeries overall. Total hip replacements are one of my favorite procedures to perform because of the predictable outcomes with large gains in quality of life for the patient.
If you suffer from hip arthritis and would like a consultation, please call Pen Bay Orthopaedics at 207-593-5454.
Joseph F. Scordino, MD, is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon at Pen Bay Medical Center.