Joint pain is a prevalent problem in American adult populations. One of the more common causes of joint pain is arthritis. Arthritis is a generalized name given to destructive changes that occur within a joint. An estimated 55 million adults and over 300,000 to 400,000 children live with arthritis.
Arthritis can originate from multiple causes. The most common cause is general wear and tear on your joints, which is termed osteoarthritis. A less common cause can be inflammatory or autoimmune arthritis. In inflammatory arthritis, your body’s own immune system attacks the joint surfaces causing destruction.
Arthritis of either type becomes a problem because articular cartilage (the cartilage that lines joints) is made of specialized cell line that develops at birth, and has very poor reparative abilities. Therefore, throughout your life, when you sustain injuries or overuse, you damage your cartilage and it is unable to heal fully. Overtime these areas of damaged cartilage build up throughout the joint and this is termed arthritis.
The joints most commonly affected are the weight bearing joints of the hip, knee, ankle and foot but it can also affect spine, shoulders, elbows, and hands.
Treatment for osteoarthritis begins with conservative measures.
Anti-inflammatory medication – taken regularly can decrease inflammation and thus pain in the joint
Joint injections – with steroids or hyaluronic acid
Physical therapy – aimed at maintaining joint motion and increasing strength
Activity modification – use of brace, cane and low impact activity
If you fail to gain relief with these conservative measures, total joint arthroplasty is usually a very reliable option. Advancements in the technology of material science have improved total joint arthroplasties immensely so that 20-year survival of arthroplasties is well over 90% for hips, knees and ankles. There are over 1,000,000 arthroplasties performed annually in the US and as the population continues to age this is expected to increase 3-4 fold by 2030.
At Georgia Bone and Joint, we have a collection of specialized Orthopaedists who provide full-body care for all types of joint pain and arthritis: Spine, hip, knee, foot and ankle, shoulder and hand. We feature one of only 5 surgery centers in Georgia currently providing safe outpatient Total Joint arthroplasty and have a 5 year track record of success in our outpatient total joint program.
DAVID HEINSCH, MD