Chronic joint pain indicates a severe problem. The solution may not be surgery, but you need a proper diagnosis for effective treatment.
Joint pain comes in myriad forms, and can affect any of the many joints in your body. A mild injury or episode of irritation will usually resolve quickly. However, in the case of chronic—or long-lasting—joint pain, you need to turn to an orthopedic surgeon for help. Orthopedic surgeons are experts in joint health, and are knowledgeable about all the components of joints, including ligaments, muscles, cartilage, bones, and more.
An orthopedic surgeon can provide you with a diagnosis, and work with you to come up with an appropriate treatment plan. Your orthopedic surgeon will tailor your treatment plan toward reducing your symptoms, maximizing your mobility, and providing the best quality of life.
Symptoms Accompanying Chronic Joint Pain
While chronic joint pain may occur alone, it often manifests with other joint symptoms. These joint symptoms commonly include…
- A sensation of locking or catching in the joint
- Joint swelling
- Redness or heat at the joint
- A clicking sound when moving the joint
- A grinding sensation or feeling of fluid in the joint
Any of these symptoms can appear at any time. For example, some signs may come on only in the morning when you get out of bed. For some people, the symptoms appear only at the end of an active day. You may experience symptoms while at rest, or while moving or exercising.
It is important to take note of these symptoms. This information will be helpful to your orthopedic surgeon during diagnosis.
Possible Causes of Chronic Joint Pain
There are many potential causes of chronic joint pain. One of the most common reasons for long-term joint pain is arthritis. The term “arthritis” means joint inflammation. There are numerous types of arthritis, but the two most widespread categories are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system attacks your joints. Osteoarthritis is when you suffer cartilage loss in your joints. This condition is mainly due to aging or repeated trauma, say from accidents or sports injuries.
Even a single traumatic episode can lead to chronic joint pain. For example, a tear or rupture of a ligament, tendon, or joint capsule could cause you to experience lasting pain and other joint symptoms, such as those mentioned above. Other conditions that may be responsible for joint pain can include…
- Gout, which is a buildup of uric acid in your joints
- Congenital defects present from birth
- Joint infections
How do Orthopedic Surgeons Investigate Chronic Joint Pain?
When trying to determine the underlying cause of joint pain, orthopedic surgeons use a variety of tools. Perhaps the most important of these is a medical history. This means the surgeon will interview you, asking you questions about your symptoms, and the history of your joint problems. They will likely ask questions relevant to your case.
The next step is a physical examination, wherein your surgeon may ask you to move your joint in different ways. Your orthopedic surgeon might also conduct blood tests, or draw fluid from your joint for analysis. Barring these two options, your surgeon may require diagnostic imaging to give an accurate diagnosis. This imaging could include procedures such as MRIs, CT scans, and x-rays.
Seeing an Orthopedic Surgeon Does Not Necessarily Mean Surgery
You may be hesitant to see an orthopedic surgeon if you want to avoid surgery. Despite their title, orthopedic surgeons do much more than performing operations. In fact, an orthopedic surgeon will usually try non-surgical, conservative measures first, unless they see that surgery is immediately warranted. These conservative measures may consist of treatments like anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injections, draining fluid from your joint, physical therapy, heat or cold application, or simply resting your symptomatic joint.
If you do need surgery, you should know that most orthopedic surgeries today are laparoscopic. This term means that the orthopedic surgeon uses tiny incisions, or ports, to insert a camera and surgical instruments into your joint. Laparoscopic surgery is a less invasive method than traditional open surgery. Surgical scars will be smaller, your recovery time will be shorter, and you will likely experience less postoperative pain than with open surgery.
However, keep in mind that you may not be a good candidate for surgery. Orthopedic surgeons weigh the risks and benefits before recommending surgery to patients. If you have a severe medical condition, like heart disease, the risks of orthopedic surgery may be too great. Of course, your orthopedic surgeon will discuss your case in detail with you.
Consequences of Doing Nothing
It is unwise to ignore chronic or severe pain of any sort. If you do not seek treatment for your chronic joint pain, your condition could easily worsen. Your disease or injury could intensify to the point where you begin to lose joint function and suffer debility. Furthermore, if you allow your condition to go untreated and you do eventually need surgery, your problem may have progressed so far that the procedure has less chance of success.
Please contact us now, and we will be happy to help.