Don’t Let Joint Pain Stop You

What is joint pain?

There are many types of joints in the human body – fixed, hinge, ball, socket and pivot.  Joint pain is a discomfort that arises from any joint, the point where two bones meet.   Within each joint is surrounded by a fluid filled pocket known as bursae; the bones have a protective lining made of cartilage that help the bones move over each other easily.  If any part of the joint is compromised through trauma, injury or inflammation, you will experience pain.   Joint pain can be mild, causing some soreness each time you move your joint, or it can be more severe making it impossible to use your joint.  Joint pain can affect any part of your body from your ankles to your shoulders.

What causes joint pain?

Joint pain can be caused by many types of injuries and conditions.  No matter what the cause, joint pain can be very bothersome.  As you get older, painful joints become more common.  As our bodies age the strength and wellness of our joints drops significantly.  The cartilage around our joints begins to decrease and wear as we get older.  When our cartilage deteriorates, factures are easier to occur, causing pain. 

What are my pain relief options?

Joint pain is rarely an emergency.  Most cases of mild joint pain can be successfully managed at home.

Whatever the cause of joint pain, you can usually manage it with medication, physical therapy and alternative treatments.  Your doctor will first try to diagnose and treat the condition that is causing you joint pain.  The goal is to reduce pain and inflammation and preserve joint function.

How do I know if I need surgery?

If your joint pain has become painful or it is difficult to participate in daily activities, it is a good time to see your doctor.  Often times, those that need surgery have limited mobility to where even slight movements are difficult.  The pain may be so severe that the person will avoid using the joint, which weakens the muscles around it and making it even more difficult to move.  As you age your joints are more subject to wear and can become loose.  If any of these occur, or there is an infection, you might need replacement surgery. 

What is total joint replacement surgery?

Total joint replacement is when an arthritic or damaged joint is removed and replaced with an artificial joint, called prosthesis.  The goal of total joint replacement is to relieve the pain in the joint caused by the damage done to the cartilage.  A physical examination, lab tests and X-rays will show the extent of the damage to the joint prior to the determination of needing a total joint replacement.  During the surgery, the patient will receive an anesthetic and the surgeon will replace the damaged parts of the joint.  The materials used in the total joint replacement are designed to enable the new joint to move just like a normal joint.  Hip and knee replacements are the most commons joints replaced, but this surgery can be performed on the ankle; foot; shoulder; elbow and fingers.    Total joint replacement will be considered if other treatment options will not relieve the pain and disability. 

Where can I learn more?

Register for the free joint pain seminar, 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm, Thursday, May 1, at IU Health Ball Memorial Rehabilitation on Community in Muncie by calling 765.741.1073 or 800.237.9625.

Dr. Brent Damer is an orthopedic surgeon with Central Indiana Orthopedics with privileges at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital.  For more information, please visit iuhealth.org/ball-memorial.

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