Aches and pains can happen to anyone, but if you find yourself wincing every time you’re getting out of bed or bending to tie your shoes, it might be time to consider that it’s not just a temporary issue.
“Joint pain affects many people, and it can be an incredibly frustrating and debilitating disease, depending on how severe it is,” says Jonathan Garino, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Paoli Hospital.
Hips, knees, elbows, shoulders, and wrists are some of the most common culprits for joint pain, and can occur in anyone, regardless of age, making it difficult to complete everyday tasks, like going for a walk, reaching for a box on the top shelf, or bending down to tie your shoes.
Fortunately for some, this type of pain can be treated with self-care methods before it progresses to something more serious. Over-the-counter medications like aspirin and ibuprofen as well as icing the affected joint a few times throughout the day can help to reduce the pain and swelling. Another important factor in controlling pain is making sure you give your joints time to rest and recover from activity.
“If you’re noticing knee pain, don’t stand when you can sit, and don’t participate in strenuous workouts or other activities. If you have pain in your elbow, have someone else reach the top shelf,” suggests Dr. Garino. “Giving those joints the rest that they need will allow them to heal more quickly or reduce the severity of your pain.”
Although these self-care methods can be helpful if your pain has not progressed, chronic pain will often require medical attention. If your pain is accompanied by swelling, redness, or tenderness, then it may be time to make an appointment with your doctor, who can work with you to determine the cause of your pain and the best treatment options.
How soon should you make your appointment for? As soon as possible, says Dr. Garino.
“Don’t delay an important visit with your doctor, especially if increasing pain is involved,” Dr. Garino says. “When you make your appointment, explain the details of your pain, and try to get into the office within one to two weeks. Don’t allow the pain to worsen.”
Keep in mind that there are certain times when you should seek medical attention immediately. If your joint pain is caused by an injury. Joint deformities, intense pain, sudden swelling, inability to use the joint, bleeding, or an exposed bone or tendon are all symptoms that mean you should seek immediate medical attention at an urgent care center or the closest emergency department.
“Most joint pain is treatable and can be addressed, as long as your physician knows about it. Rather than allowing pain to progress and hoping it gets better, take action,” says Dr. Garino. Treatments can range from simple medication and physical therapy to minor procedures such as arthroscopy or partial replacements to more comprehensive total joint replacements.
Many people suffering from joint pain are hesitant to explore treatment options because the idea of being out of work or bound to the couch for more than a day or two can seem like an inconvenience. Fortunately, the recovery process rarely requires patients to be inactive.
Many patients who know that they need a joint replaced, are afraid of the pain and seem to believe that the post-operative recovery will be lengthy.
“We do a very good job with pain management these days. We take full advantage of the full spectrum of medications available to enhance patients’ rapid recovery. Most are ready to leave the hospital two days after surgery," Dr. Garino adds. “The other misconception is that patients who are afraid of joint replacements think that they will not be able to participate in many activities, but the truth is that we discourage aggressive running and jumping, but most activities are encouraged."
In addition, modern replacements are quite durable, the vast majority of patients can expect them to last 20 or more years.
Don’t let joint pain go on any longer. Attend one of our free joint pain seminars for information on the source and treatment of your pain, or make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist in your area.