If you’ve reached the point where your arthritis pain has stopped responding to treatment, or continues exceeding your attempts to minimize the pain, it may be time to consider surgery. With the right arthritis treatment, Denver men and women can experience improved function in their hand and finger joints as well as decreased pain.
Arthritis is a progressive, degenerative disease that affects the joints. When normal bones come together to form a joint, the ends are covered in cartilage that helps them move smoothly. In osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, the cartilage gradually degrades until the bones are grinding directly against each other, with no cushioning cartilage. This repeated abrasion causes stiffness in the joints, which in turn causes inflammation and pain.
In rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system begins attacking the synovial tissue that’s responsible for lubricating the joints. This tissue then becomes so swollen that ligaments and tendons are pushed out of alignment, causing both physical deformity and joint pain.
The hand and wrist area are particularly subject to the development of arthritis; each hand has 19 primary bones, plus 8 smaller bones. The wrist joint is formed by the two bones of the forearm. If arthritis affects any of the joints in the hands, fingers and wrists, simple daily activities can become prohibitively painful.
Most treatments for arthritis focus on managing the painful symptoms. The typical approach is to start taking analgesics, especially those with anti-inflammatory properties. Other approaches for treatment include taking supplements to aid joint health, using hot or cold compresses, or utilizing alternative pain management techniques such as acupuncture or meditation. Corticosteroid injections delivered directly to the affected joints can also provide short-term relief.
For those with rheumatoid arthritis, the above approaches may be utilized, as well as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs that help slow the progression of the disease and immunosuppressants that help calm the immune system.
Regular exercise of the affected joint can help maintain range of motion and prevent stiffness, although some arthritis sufferers may notice an increase in pain with too much activity. It’s important to find a balanced approach that works best for your body and your specific needs; consulting a physical therapist may help in this goal.
How Surgery Helps
If you’re experiencing severe pain or severely limited range of motion that have not been resolved by other treatments, surgery may be the next step. The goal of surgery is to reduce pain levels while restoring as much hand and finger function as possible.
During hand surgery, the affected joints may be either fused or replaced. Joint fusion removes the arthritic surface, and the bones on either side are then fused together, which eliminates motion in the affected joint. Alternatively, the joint can be reconstructed by removing only the irregular joint surface, and replacing that section with other tissue (like tendons or scar tissue), or an artificial implant.
For those with rheumatoid arthritis, hand surgery can help repair hand and joint deformities as well as reduce pain.
Is Surgery Right for Me?
There’s no single right answer that works for everyone when it comes to arthritis treatment. Seeking guidance from a doctor or surgeon at a dedicated arthritis center can be a positive step in the right direction. For many Denver men and women, pain relief may be possible without surgery. For others, surgery may provide a welcome solution to moving forward to a pain-free life.