By Dr. Turner Brown
With the cold weather hanging around lately, you might have felt your joints hurting a bit more than usual. Changes in the weather can affect your joints. Differences in air pressure affect blood flow around the joint, which can cause occasional aches and pains. However, if your aches and pains don’t change with the weather, there could be something else going on.
Osteoarthritis is a common degenerative disease affecting the joints. Knees and hips are most commonly affected, but shoulders, fingers, and even small joints in the spine can be affected too.
The ends of each bone are covered in cartilage, a hard but smooth tissue. When healthy, cartilage provides a stable, friction-free surface allowing joint to articulate pain free. Damaged cartilage does not always heal well, and over time, cartilage breakdown can lead to increased pain, stiffness, and eventually the “bone-on-bone” appearance on X-ray.
What causes arthritis?
- Prior injuries can put people at risk for developing arthritis. “Post-traumatic” osteoarthritis can occur in individuals who’ve had a broken hip, dislocated shoulder or torn ACL.
- Overweight individuals are at risk of developing arthritis, particularly in the hips and knees.
- Some people have a genetic predisposition for arthritis.
- Others could develop the disease for unknown reasons.
Regardless of the cause, osteoarthritis can significantly impact your quality of life. The good news is, osteoarthritis is treatable.
What are treatment options?
- For early or mild arthritis: Weight loss and regular, gentle exercise or physical therapy. Losing weight will decrease the stress to the joints of the leg and back, while regular, low-impact activity will help maintain strength and flexibility across all joints.
- For more advanced arthritis: Anti-inflammatory medications can be used for occasional pain relief. Prescription medications are used when over-the-counter medications are no longer helpful. Corticosteroid injections can provide pain relief for up to three months in patients with moderate to severe arthritis. Steroid injections are used in most all joints but most commonly in the knee, shoulder or hip. Corticosteroids are high-powered anti-inflammatories that can “cool off” the irritated cartilage in the joint.
- For advanced cases that are not responding to conservative treatment: If arthritis is causing enough pain that it significantly affects daily activities, it’s time to consider joint replacement. Knee, hip, and shoulder replacements are the most common. Surgery can be a daunting decision. However, for the right person, joint replacement can significantly reduce pain and increase quality of life.
If you’ve had joint pain for a few days or a few years and want to move better and live better, we would love to help you at Capital Ortho!
Dr. Turner Brown is an orthopedic surgeon at Capital Ortho specializing in joint reconstruction surgery. For over 30 years, Capital Ortho has been providing general and specialized orthopedic care. They have locations in Flowood, Madison, Clinton, Brookhaven, Hazlehurst and Kosciusko. To learn more or schedule an appointment, visit capitalortho.com or call 601-987-8200.