July 1, 2024

Navigating Joint Pain: Exploring Non-Surgical and Surgical Options for Hip and Knee Relief

by Dr. Ricardo Gonzales, Elliot Orthopaedics

As we age, we may notice the activities we enjoy, like hiking, playing golf, or gardening, become harder and might even leave us with some unwanted pain in our knees, hips, or both. At Elliot Orthopaedics, we see patients every day who have developed arthritis in their hips and knees and want some sort of relief. While joint replacement might seem like the most immediate treatment to relieve the discomfort, there are a few alternative treatment options I like to try with my patients before we discuss surgical options. 

Medications, Injections, and Physical Therapy

If the joint pain is new and not interfering with your day-to-day life, taking an over-the-counter medication like Tylenol or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help relieve some of your symptoms. Trying a topical gel or ointment like Icy Hot can also help provide temporary pain relief. 

If these at-home treatments are not helping to provide any sort of relief, we can administer a steroid injection in the joint for short-term relief of pain and swelling. Steroid injections can relieve the pain in joints for a few months at a time, but patients have to come into the office each time they need another injection. 

Another non-surgical treatment option that I might suggest to a patient is physical therapy along with the use of a brace, cane, or orthotic device in their shoes. While these options are not always long-term fixes, they can both ease joint pain and make moving around easier. If none of the above non-surgical treatments provide the relief that patients are hoping for or if the pain becomes debilitating, that’s when we begin to think about surgery as an option. 

Joint Replacement and Options 

Often when we think about knee and hip replacement, we think about a week of recovery in the hospital and months of rehabilitation. But now, most patients who have a hip or knee replacement are discharged from the hospital within two to three days, and some even go home the same day as their surgery. 

About 10 years ago, I began doing outpatient joint replacements. My patient will come in for surgery at 7:30 a.m. and be ready to go home around lunchtime. While it is an abbreviated encounter in the hospital, I always reassure my patients that it’s safe and that they are receiving the same level of care as they would in the hospital. With an outpatient joint replacement, the patient is getting the same surgeon, the same device, and the same anesthesia. For a patient to be considered as a good candidate for an outpatient joint replacement, firstly, the patient must be motivated to do it. If there is any hesitation about having an outpatient procedure, then we are more than happy to take care of them in the traditional hospital setting. Another important factor for an outpatient joint replacement is making sure that the patient has a group of people who can support them while they are recovering from surgery.

For patients who are older or have other medical conditions, like COPD, uncontrolled diabetes, risk for bleeding, or heart disease, most likely are not good candidates for an outpatient joint replacement and that’s why the traditional route of having your joint replacement done in the hospital setting is just as good of an option. 

If you are experiencing joint pain or discomfort, we are here for you each step of the way at Elliot Orthopaedics. Learn more at ElliotHospital.org/Ortho or call 603-262-3996.

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