Chronic, serious pain in your joints may be the result of an injury, repetitive strain, or arthritis. When you need more than ibuprofen to manage your pain, you may wonder what’s next. In some cases, joint replacement might be the best solution.
Struan Coleman, MD, PhD, is expertly trained in arthroscopy and other orthopedic surgical techniques. He can help you determine when total joint replacement is the right choice for you.
The symptoms of joint pain
Joint pain includes a wide variety of symptoms in addition to pain. You may also experience any combination of the following symptoms in your joints:
- Limited range of motion
- Tenderness, especially when moving
- Stiffness, especially in your knee or shoulder
- A clicking or popping sound when you move the joint
Joints include a lot of cartilage, and those that are damaged by injury or arthritis typically cannot repair themselves well. Cartilage damage leads to inflammation, stiffness, and pain in your joints.
Complete joint replacement is rarely the first step in treating joint problems. Most patients have already seen a doctor who tried to take a conservative approach with less invasive forms of treatment to provide effective relief. By the time you see Dr. Coleman, you’ve likely been dealing with joint pain for quite a while.
Among the least invasive types of treatments for painful or swollen joints include the following:
- Pain relievers, including acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Creams or ointments you rub into the skin — available either over-the-counter or by prescription
- Corticosteroid or hyaluronic acid injections into the joint to replace the natural fluid that surrounds the joint; relief from this procedure is temporary, lasting only about six months
- Physical therapy and exercise to help to strengthen the muscles around your joints
- Weight loss, if applicable — every pound of extra weight puts three pounds of force on your knees
When these less invasive measures fail to provide sufficient relief, joint replacement is the next step.
Common joint replacement surgeries
Knee replacements are the most common type of joint replacement. The shoulder joint’s complicated muscle structure makes shoulder surgery more complex than other joint replacements.
Knee replacement is especially crucial because your knees bear your entire weight. If your knees are damaged, you can have problems walking, using stairs, and getting exercise. People with knee damage still feel pain even at rest and while sleeping. Because the cartilage in the knee is not repairable on its own, knee replacement is often necessary.
Dr. Coleman is an expert in performing knee replacement. He evaluates whether you need a full or partial knee replacement, depending on the part of your knees that are damaged. He replaces the damaged joint with an artificial one made of a combination of plastic and metal.
Shoulder replacement is often necessary after injuries. Although your shoulder is not weight-bearing, it can cause a great deal of pain. Like your knees, the cartilage in your shoulders doesn’t repair itself well, and surgery is often the only option to get true pain relief.
What to expect after joint replacement
Although joint replacement can help you feel better almost immediately, it takes some time to get used to your new joints. Expect swelling as your joints heal from the surgery. Most people need physical therapy to learn proper joint movement.
Dr. Coleman can help you evaluate when you need surgery to replace one or more of your joints. Call the office nearest you today, or request a consultation online.