Arthritis is not a single disease, but a group of more than 100 related conditions often involving inflammation of the joints — the areas in the body where two bones meet.
A wide variety of causes, including genetic factors, injury, infection, metabolic abnormalities, autoimmune disorders — such as psoriasis — and age-related wear and tear, contribute to arthritis. This chronic condition can affect any joint in the body or several joints at the same time.
Depending on the type, arthritis can destroy the cartilage cushion between bones, the connective tissues of tendons and ligaments or the synovium (soft tissue lining of the joint’s inner surfaces). As the disease progresses, arthritis symptoms may include chronic joint pain, swelling and stiffness, all of which can limit physical activity and affect quality of life. Arthritis can gradually distort and enlarge the affected joints, severely limiting range of motion.
The most common joint damage that we treat occurs because of arthritis within the knee, hip, elbow and ankle joints.
Arthritis pain treatment usually begins with conservative measures, such as lifestyle modifications, regular exercise or physical therapy, aimed at relieving symptoms. Medication options may include ibuprofen, pain-relieving creams or injections of steroids or lubricants that can help reduce inflammation.
When arthritis is caused by an immune system disorder, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs may be prescribed. When conservative treatments no longer provide relief from arthritis pain, surgery is the next step.
Recovery and rehabilitation time depends on many factors, including the patient’s overall health, type of arthritis and joint involved, as well as the specific procedure performed.
Before surgery, many surgeons recommend a physical conditioning and pain management plan to help improve outcomes. After surgery, physical therapy helps restore strength and range of motion. In addition, assistive devices such as braces, canes or crutches may be necessary for a short time.
Some of the most common surgery options that treat arthritis include:
- Arthroscopy, a minimally invasive technique that can be used to repair damaged tissues and cartilage.
- Joint resurfacing, which replaces the arthritic surface with a smooth cap to eliminate the source of grinding pain and improve functionality.
- Total joint replacement, in which the damaged joint is removed and replaced with an implant.
The arthritis specialists at UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine work together as team to develop a personalized treatment plan for each patient that focuses on maximizing symptom relief while minimizing disruption to daily life. Depending on the disease’s severity and progression, the treatment plan may be upgraded over time from pain relievers to physical therapy and finally surgery.
Surgical treatment is considered the definitive treatment for many types of severe arthritis, especially when joint damage occurs. For example, total hip replacement is one of the safest and most successful interventions for advanced osteoarthritis, with patients reporting a significant decrease in pain and increase in their ability to perform their everyday tasks comfortably. According to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, most hip replacement surgery patients experience dramatically reduced pain and significantly improved mobility.
It is important to note that the patient’s commitment to following all pre- and post-surgical recommendations helps ensure that surgery and recovery will be as smooth as possible.