Conservative Treatments for Joint Pain

Rhiannon Anderson, PA

Experiencing joint pain? Surgery is not your only option. There are many conservative (non-surgical) options that can provide significant relief from joint pain. At Orthopaedic Associates (OA), we work with our patients to help them get relief from joint pain in a way that minimizes disruption to daily life.

Treat joint pain at home
Most people can successfully treat minor joint pain at home with the RICE method and/or anti-inflammatory medication.

RICE, which stands for rest, ice/anti-inflammatory medication, compression and elevation, can go a long way in addressing joint pain.

These treatments can help alleviate swelling, pain and inflammation, and help you get on with your daily life with more comfort.

My colleague, Jared Kiernicki, has published an article that discusses RICE in-depth.

Anti-inflammatory medications
The proper use of anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce pain very effectively. Some medicines are over the counter, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, etc. while others are by prescription (these may be stronger and require more supervision).

Arthritis, which is the most common cause of joint pain in middle-aged and older adults, is not adequately treated with opioid-type medications. Those medications don’t address the cause of the pain. Opioids may dull the pain a little but aren’t really helping the situation improve. In fact, using opioids for joint pain relief may result in needing higher and higher doses for the same effect.

Learn more about opioids, and some alternative options for pain control, offered by the experts at Deaconess Comprehensive Pain Center and Progressive Health.

Treat joint pain with physical therapy
Physical therapy (PT) can make a world of difference for patients with joint pain. What can therapy do?

  • Physical therapy can improve range of motion in a joint. Some patients complain that the joint feels stiff, or “locked up,” etc. and PT can help with that.
  • PT can strengthen muscles around joints, helping to reduce the strain on those joints, improve stability and more.
  • Balance can also improve from PT, reducing the risk of falls, and improving overall stability and strength.
  • Therapists can also use ultrasound, electrical stimulation and other treatments to significantly reduce pain.
  • Another important note about PT: while it can often prevent surgery, sometimes therapy can only delay the need for surgery. However, by the time you are ready for joint replacement surgery, the PT you’ve done has helped you become stronger. Patients who have followed PT instructions very carefully have better, quicker outcomes from surgery, including a less difficult rehabilitation.
Physical therapy treatment of the knee

Treat joint pain with injections
Joint injections can also significantly reduce pain and inflammation. There are two types of injections that OA doctors use for patients: steroid injections and hyaluronic injections.

Steroid injections reduce inflammation caused by arthritis, which reduces pain and swelling. These injections may be given as often as every 3 months, but many patients do well with only 1-2 shots per year or less.
These injections can be a long-term treatment; however, some patients find that over time, the injections are less effective, and replacement surgery may need to take place.

Steroid injections may be a good choice for patients who are taking blood thinners (anticoagulants) but not an ideal choice for a patient with diabetes.

Hyaluronic acid injections supplement the hyaluronic acid that naturally occurs in joints. The acid acts as a “joint lubricant” making the joint move more smoothly. As people age and develop arthritis, the body may need a “booster” of this lubricating substance.

These shots can be given for long spans of time, and many patients respond well for many years.

In Summary
If you’re experiencing joint pain, don’t assume that you will definitely need surgery.  There may be several other options that your orthopedic specialist can recommend.

To schedule an appointment with me or my colleagues at Orthopaedic Associates, request an appointment online or call 812-424-9291.