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Why Do My Joints Hurt?
If you have persistent joint pain, the reason could be damage to the cartilage, caused by one of several underlying conditions. While each case is unique, the most common causes of joint pain are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Arthritis typically results from minor repetitive injuries, trauma to the joint cartilage, or heredity.
Osteoarthritis forms as a result of gradual, wear-and-tear damage to the cartilage that protects the joints. It causes swelling, pain, stiffness, tenderness and limited range-of-motion. As the condition worsens, cartilage wears away, causing bones to rub against one another. Osteoarthritis is the common condition that leads to knee and hip replacement surgeries, and affects over 32.5 million American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the joints. As a result, inflammation and fluid builds up in the lining of the membranes that surround the joints, causing swelling, pain, stiffness, fatigue and fever. As the disease progresses, the lining thickens, leading to pain and destroying the cartilage. Eventually, it can result in bone erosion and joint deformity. Patients who have rheumatoid arthritis most often undergo knee and hip replacement surgery; however, shoulders, ankles and wrists are common too.
Non-surgical, conservative treatments – such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, physical therapy and injections – should be the first course of action. If these treatments do not relieve your pain, it may be time to consider surgery. Talk with your doctor about what’s right for you.
Joint replacement surgery typically takes a few hours and is usually performed in a hospital’s operating room. During the procedure, the surgeon replaces damaged cartilage and bone with a prosthetic component. The prosthetic, which is made out of plastic, ceramic or metal, is designed to imitate a joint and can last up to 25 years. Most patients are up and walking with assistance the day of surgery, discharged two days after the procedure, and immediately placed in an outpatient physical therapy program. Some younger patients may even be able to begin this process at home with the help of skilled clinical staff from a home health agency.
If you are suffering with chronic pain, swelling, restricted mobility, stiffness and limited range-of-motion, talk to your primary care doctor or consider a visit to an orthopedist. Not every case ends up in surgery, but it’s best to work with professionals who know your goals, can present options, and will work with you to relieve pain.