Arthritis Patients: Do You Need Surgery?
If you have recently been diagnosed with arthritis or if you suspect you have it, thoughts of surgery may automatically pop into your head. Yes, some patients must undergo surgery, but it is very rare. Despite the common belief, it is possible to treat and manage the symptoms of arthritis, such as joint pain, swelling, and difficulty moving, without surgery.
When is surgery considered an option?
Unbearable Pain. When the pain is so severe that over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription pain relievers do not work, surgery may be the last resort. Over time, our bodies get used to the pain relievers we ingest. Over time the Tylenol that once provided you with relief, may no longer do so. If and when that point arrives, speak to your doctor about prescribed medications. He or she will likely want to try those first before opting for surgery.
Joint damage. The elderly and those who let their arthritis go untreated are susceptible to joint damage. This includes deformities. For example, a patient with severe rheumatoid arthritis may have bent out of shape fingers. This not only looks different, but it is excruciating in terms of pain. Surgery can be used to correct these deformities and other severe joint damage.
What type of procedures may be performed?
Arthroscopy. This is a minimally invasive surgery and a great alternative to open surgery. A small incision is made in the skin. Then, a thin viewing instrument, known as an arthroscope is inserted. Its destination? The painful joint. Many surgeons use this procedure to diagnose a problem and decide on a course of treatment. It can also be used to perform small surgeries. It has many benefits, including less pain, lower costs, and less hospitalization. So, if you need surgery, offer an arthroscopy as a suggestion.
Arthrodesis. This surgery is very rare, as there is a high risk of complications. And, it results in a permanent disability. So, why is it even offered? It is the only hope of pain relief for some individuals. These individuals have a diseased joint that cannot be fixed any other way. Pain and swelling are common and unmanageable. Arthrodesis involves fusing two bones into a joint. This prevents joint movement. For many, this is the last and only resort.
Joint replacement. Joint replacement surgeries are common with the shoulders, knees, and hips. With joint replacement surgeries, the ends of nearby bones are replaced. This results in new joint surfaces. It will take time and physical therapy, but most patients experience a reduction and pain and an increase in mobility. For the fingers and toes, joint replacement is less common. Typically, surgeons opt for the fusion of smaller joints, as opposed to total replacement.
What are the alternatives to arthritis-related surgery?
It depends. For starters, how severe is your arthritis? When were you diagnosed? The earlier osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are diagnosed, the easier it is to treat without surgery. Exercise is vital. Yes, it is difficult to move your joints, so exercise may seem like it is out of the question, but it is not. Start with low-impact exercises or opt for water exercises or physical therapy. The more a joint is moved, the less stiffness you experience. This can later reduce the chance of deformities.
As for the pain, remember that surgery is only used as a last resort. First, try over-the-counter pain pills and cream or ask for stronger prescription medications. Heat also helps many. Soak in a warm bath daily or use a heating pad. Although there is little scientific proof to back these claims, many arthritis patients report long-term relief with the continued use of natural remedies and supplements, including cayenne pepper, pineapples, ASU, and ginger.