How is post-traumatic arthritis treated?

Treatment for post-traumatic arthritis starts with weight loss, low impact exercise and strengthening of the muscles surrounding the joint, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs such as Advil®, Aleve®, Lodine®, Celebrex® or one of many others) are often recommended if you can take them. Arthritic joints can also be injected with cortisone or substances called Hylamers, which act like artificial joint fluid. All of these measures are aimed at making the joint more comfortable and functional. They do not cure the arthritis.

When the arthritis progresses to the point that these measures are not effective in treating pain and maintaining function, then surgical treatment will be discussed.

Surgical treatment may include debriding ("cleaning out"), reconstructing, or replacing the worn out joint surfaces. Post-traumatic arthritis progresses as time goes on. The joint surface wears out further with more use over the years.

Fortunately, when the nonsurgical treatments are no longer effective, surgical treatment can offer lasting relief.

What side effects can occur in the treatment of post-traumatic arthritis?

Any medical or surgical treatment can have side effects or risks. NSAIDs can cause stomach irritation, kidney, liver, or other problems. Cortisone can cause elevation of heart rate and blood sugar and should not be given too often. Surgical treatments have risks of infection, damage to surrounding structures, and wearing out or loosening of implants. Also, there is a risk of medical complications such as blood clots, heart attack, stroke, infection, and other problems. Fortunately, all these problems are quite infrequent. Most surgery is very successful in improving pain and function.

After surgery, you can expect some discomfort. You may need to use a sling, crutches, a cane, or a walker temporarily. You can expect your pain relief and function to gradually improve over months after surgery.

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