For the body to move we need to joints. These joints allow us to move in various directions and are usually surrounded by a capsule of ligaments and are controlled by muscles. The bony surfaces of the joints are covered with a softer cartilage that allows for the movement to be smooth and even.
As we age, this softer tissue can become worn down by over use and can lead to the bony surfaces touching each other. The surface of the joint also becomes less even and can produce rough edges that can cause irritation to the surrounding soft tissue. This can lead to inflammation and swelling of the joint and can become a chronic problem which results in pain and loss of movement and function.
This will depend on the severity of the symptoms and the amount of joint damage present. Conservative treatment will include physiotherapy to decrease swelling and inflammation, improve muscle strength and length and produce normal movement patterns. Bracing or strapping may also be used at this stage, together with crutches and slings to protect the joint.
If conservative treatment doesn’t work, a surgical solution may be needed. This can vary from the arthroscopy to cleanup the rough surfaces to complete joint replacement. A joint replacement is when the moving parts of the joint are replaced by synthetic or metal parts to help restore the smooth surfaces and increase the joint space thus allowing for normal pain free movement. Some common replacements include:
- Knee replacement
- Hip replacement
- Shoulder replacement
- Ankle replacement
- Radius head (elbow) replacement
Rehabilitation following surgery is important to achieve full range of movement, decrease swelling and restoring normal muscle action. The recovery period can range from 6-12 weeks post surgery.