FAQ’s on Extremity Arthritis – Hip, Knee, and Shoulder
To understand how arthritis affects a joint, it is important to first understand how arthritis forms and what it can do to a joint. Arthritis is the term given to the general wear and tear occurring to the cartilage of a joint from daily usage, with an over-all loss of cartilage generally referred to as arthritic damage. When enough cartilage is lost in this manner, the bones that comprise a joint can begin to grind against each other during movement of the joint. This grinding can lead to bone damage, producing debilitating inflammation and pain in the afflicted joint.
Arthritic inflammation that occurs in the knees or hips can lead to difficulty walking, and may produce feelings of pain if the patient walks or stands for too long. Arthritic damage occurring in the shoulder can lower the functional capability of the arm, leading to a restriction in the range of motion and to pain if the arm is moved incorrectly.
What are the causes of Extremity Arthritis?
The primary cause behind the formation of arthritic damage in these three extremities is the lack of a protective layer of cartilage on the bones that would otherwise actively work to protect them. A decrease of cartilage primarily occurs as an age-related complication due to natural degeneration, but can also result from direct damage to a joint. Joint damage can accelerate how fast cartilage deteriorates in that joint, but may also directly remove portions of cartilage at the time of injury.
Arthritic damage of a joint is one of the most frequent causes of joint pain in patients, and has been found in patients of all ages. However, it is much more common to find in older patients, as they will have had a much longer timeframe for cartilage to be lost. About one out of every three Americans currently has some level of arthritic damage in their joints.
What are the symptoms of Extremity Arthritis?
The primary symptoms associated with arthritis in an extremity will vary based on the exact location of the inflammation, and on the severity of damage that has occurred. Shared symptoms between all three locations include feelings of pain, tenderness of the area to outside touch, swelling inside the joint, and a feeling of warmth if the joint is touched. Patients may also experience a visible redness of skin that is located over inflammation.
How is Extremity Arthritis diagnosed?
Diagnosis is commonly achieved by a combination of the symptoms present, the patient’s medical history, and a recording of the events leading up to the appearance of symptoms. Careful physical examination of the joint with range of motion testing and imaging techniques are also very reliable methods of diagnosis for the presence of arthritic damage.
What are the treatment options for Extremity Arthritis?
The treatments available to patients will differ based on the severity of the arthritic damage and on where it is located in the joint. Minor arthritic damage can be treated with conservative methods, with the primary treatments of anti-inflammatory medication, painkillers, and a reduction in activities that may contribute to the development of arthritis. Some patients may find relief with a warm or cold (whichever works best) compress onto the afflicted joint.
Patients with moderate levels of damage may require physical therapy to strengthen the joint and help provide relief for damage that has already occurred. Patients may find relief through the use of steroidal joint injections, which seek to directly numb the inflamed area to stop symptomatic pains. There are newer injections being researched in the fields of regenerative injections for joint pain, with treatments currently being derived out of platelet rich plasma injections (The effect of platelet-rich plasma on pain, function, and quality of life of patients with knee osteoarthritis, 2013) and stem cell therapy (Clinical results and second-look arthroscopic findings after treatment with adipose-derived stem cells for knee osteoarthritis, 2013).