Before deciding on surgery, your physician may try several non-surgical, conservative measures.
Rest, Ice and Heat
Non-surgical treatments for some patients begins with a period of rest to allow time for ice to reduce inflammation and pain. It can also temporarily prevent further aggravation, depending on the condition. Ice causes vasoconstriction, which reduces inflammation and pain by minimizing the flow of blood and lymph fluids to the area. Ice can be compressed on the affected area at 20-minute intervals for the first 48 hours. Elevating the shoulder above the heart can also help reduce inflammation. Once inflammation has been reduced, heat can promote blood flow to the area.
The first alternative to surgery typically involves lifestyle modification measures such as weight loss, avoiding activities involving long periods of standing or walking, and the use of a cane to decrease the stress on painful joints.
Exercise and Physical Therapy
Exercise and physical therapy may be prescribed to improve the strength and flexibility of your joints and other lower extremity muscles. Your exercise program may include riding a stationary bike, light weight training and flexibility exercises. An aquatic therapy program is especially effective for the treatment of arthritis since it allows mild resistance while removing weight bearing stresses. For an appropriate exercise program, contact an experienced physical therapist.
Reducing the inflammation of the tissue can provide temporary relief from pain and may delay surgery. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed to decrease the inflammation associated with arthritis. In a small number of cases, the doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, such as prednisone or cortisone, if NSAIDs are not effective. However, due to the higher rate of side effects associated with corticosteroids, a physician must closely monitor their use.
Two dietary supplements, Glucosamine and Chondroitin (commonly available in a combined tablet), may decrease the symptoms of certain conditions, such as hip arthritis. Glucosamine and Chondroitin sulfate are both naturally occurring molecules, and issues associated with both remain under active research. However, it appears that many people taking these nutrition supplements on a regular basis note a decrease in their arthritis symptoms.
There exist a number of non-surgical alternatives, such measures as lifestyle modification, exercise and physical therapy, and medication should be implemented before deciding on surgery. If all of these measures have been exhausted, then and your orthopedist may recommend surgical intervention.