Preserving your joints

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While joint replacement can be a viable option to reduce pain and restore motion when other approaches have failed, different methods of joint preservation can often be considered first.

Joint preservation refers to nonsurgical or surgical means to preserve a deteriorating joint – commonly a knee, hip, or shoulder – to delay or avoid joint replacement surgery. The goal of joint preservation is to reduce pain and inflammation, prevent injury or re-injury, and preserve cartilage.

Several factors help determine what course of joint preservation is the best option for alleviating joint pain. These include a person’s age, weight, muscle strength/conditioning, and the severity of the condition.

Preservation techniques often are more successful at a younger age. Additionally, people who maintain a healthy weight experience less stress on their joints than those who are overweight. Common preservation techniques for treating joint pain include the following:

  • Injections – Hyaluronic acid (a gel lubricant, such as Supartz) or corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation in the lining of the joints.
  • Platelet-Rich Plasma – Concentrated plasma (the liquid portion of blood) involves platelets that can be used to treat inflamed or injured tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joints.
  • Cartilage Transplant – Osteochondral autograft transfer (OATS) involves harvesting bone and intact articular cartilage from a less weight bearing portion of the knee to fill the defect in the weight bearing portion. It can be performed arthroscopically.
  • Partial Replacement – Unlike total joint replacement, only a portion of the worn out joint is replaced with artificial materials, which are typically composed of titanium and polyethylene.
  • Physical Therapy – Exercises can help reduce joint pain and stiffness, as well as improve range of motion.

Joint replacement surgery is generally performed for late stages of degenerative arthritis – also called osteoarthritis – after other treatment options have been unsuccessful. It is a safe and effective procedure to relieve pain, correct leg deformity, and help individuals safely resume most of their normal daily activities.

When it comes to eliminating joint pain and restoring mobility, talk to your healthcare provider about which treatment options are best for you.