This month, Dr David Honeybourne from Heart of England Foundation Trust answers your questions on arthritis.
I am 64-years-old and have had osteoarthritis for several years; over the last couple of years I have suffered with more severe pain in my knee and have difficulty walking most of the time. I have considered surgery but have heard physiotherapy is just as effective, is this true?
Dr Honeybourne says:
Physiotherapy in most arthritis cases can be very effective; usually stretching techniques are used to keep the joints supple and flexible which can reduce the stiffness that often causes pain.
When having an assessment with a physiotherapist they will examine your posture, muscles and the way you walk and may ask which activities cause the most pain. After an assessment you will be offered advice and in some cases a personalised treatment plan.
Surgery for osteoarthritis is only needed in a small number of cases. Your GP may suggest surgery for your condition if other treatments, such as physiotherapy have been ineffective, or if one of your joints is severely damaged.
Although there are several benefits to having surgery it should in most cases be considered as a last resort. If you need to have surgery for osteoarthritis, your GP can refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon before your symptoms become severe enough to cause permanent damage, or very severe pain.
There are a number of different types of surgery for osteoarthritis. You may have it to smooth the surfaces of your joints or repair cartilage (an arthroscopy). Possible operations include replacing a badly damaged joint with an artificial one, removing the inflamed lining of the joint cavity, removing the painful coverings from tendons or repairing damaged tendons, removing bone to relieve pain, releasing trapped nerves, or fusing a joint to make it more stable.
Physiotherapy and surgery are not the only treatments available: other options include analgesics (painkillers), and medicines such as corticosteroids, that are injected into the affected joints.
However, this is not recommended on a long term basis because of potential serious side effects.
Complementary therapies such as acupuncture, hydrotherapy or massage are sometimes used. All of these treatments can be accessed through your GP.
Choosing a treatment is based on an individual basis as every circumstance is different. You need to ensure you choose the option that suites your particular condition. Consult your GP to discuss your options to help you decide what may be best for you.
For more information about Osteoarthritis visit NHS direct online (www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk) or call 0845 4647.