Many of us think that stiff and painful joints are a natural part of aging. But that’s simply not true. Joint pain is often caused by osteoarthritis, when the cushion between your joints (cartilage) starts to wear away. Talk to your primary care provider (PCP) to see if one or more of these steps can help you feel better.
Lose weight if needed.
Carrying extra weight puts greater strain on your joints, and even a small weight loss can make a big difference. Ask your PCP for help.
Walk, bike, swim, and do other low-impact exercises.
Regular exercise helps relieve pain and stops your joints from getting worse. See what your PCP recommends.
Consider physical therapy.
If pain is limiting what you can do, a physical therapist can show you specific exercises that help and how to do them safely and most effectively.
Try over-the-counter pain relievers.
Ask your PCP what pain reliever is best for you, how much to take, and what side effects to watch for.
Ask about steroid shots if your pain is severe.
Medicine called corticosteroids can be injected into the joint to help with swelling and pain. It’s important to know that relief only lasts for a short time and more than two or three shots a year may be harmful. If you and your PCP think this is the right option, they can refer you to a specialist
If you decide to have surgery, it’s still important to take good care of your joints beforehand—as well as your overall health. As Dr. Michelle Collie, physical therapist and CEO of Performance Physical Therapy, says, “The better shape you are in before your surgery, the better results you will have afterwards.”
The people who do best after surgery:
The 12 weeks following surgery are the most crucial to rehabbing the joint and are the most intense. As Dr. Collie says, “People need to understand that surgery represents the beginning of a journey to get better. It’s hard work.” Following through with a physical therapy program and at-home exercises is a must and it’s best to avoid opioid pain relievers whenever possible.
Most surgeons and/or physical therapists will talk with you about what to expect after surgery and what you can do in advance to prepare. This includes changes you can make at home to ensure you recover in a safe environment. If the discussion doesn’t come up, here are some important points for you to bring up so you can get ready, mentally and physically, and improve your outcomes.