Dealing with arthritis pain during the COVID-19 pandemic

Bert Callahan, MD
Callahan

How do I deal with my significant hip or knee pain until the orthopedic teams are able to begin performing joint replacement surgery?

There are a variety of non-operative treatment options for arthritis pain. No one treatment is going to help everyone, and patients need to find the treatments that seem to work the best for them.

Medications

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is an over-the-counter option that is safe and effective for many. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) - e.g. Ibuprofen and naproxen - may also be helpful. Prescription NSAIDs are also an option to discuss with your health care provider. Supplements, such as glucosamine/chondroitin, are generally safe and may be helpful in reducing arthritic pain. Turmeric is also advocated as a natural anti-inflammatory agent.

Exercise

A daily exercise regimen, specifically designed for patients with hip and/or knee osteoarthritis, is critically important for maintaining strength, reducing pain and preparing your hip and/or knee for an upcoming joint replacement. It is important to be as active as your joints allow and find a variety of stretching and strengthening exercises that you perform daily, without increasing your pain. A good source for exercise instruction for arthritis may be found at www.hipknee.aahks.org.

Crutches, a walker, ice/heat treatments and a knee brace may also be helpful in managing your hip and/or knee pain.

Weight Loss and Diet

Many patients with arthritis are carrying a few extra pounds and weight loss reduces stress across our joints. We put 3-5X our body weight across our hip and knee joints with activity, particularly stair climbing and getting in and out of a chair. Every 10 pounds of extra weight carried results in 50 pounds of weight bearing pressure across the hips and knees!

A healthy diet is important for general health and weight loss, and some may find benefit from focusing on an “anti-inflammatory” diet. The anti-inflammatory diet is a diet which includes tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, nuts, fatty fish, and fresh fruit, particularly blueberries, strawberries, cherries and oranges. Foods thought to cause inflammation, and to avoid, include white bread and pastries, French fries, soda, margarine and red meat.

In summary: stay active, eat healthy, maintain social distancing as instructed and maintain a positive attitude. Please know that your orthopedic provider is also anxious to get back to “business as usual” and help you to resolve your arthritic pain!

Bert Callahan, MD, provides orthopedic and sports medicine services at the Agnesian Bone & Joint Health in Beaver Dam and Waupun Memorial Hospital. Call (920) 324-6802 to learn more.

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